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New law allows pharmacy professionals to focus on responding and learning when things go wrong

17 May 2018

On Monday 16 April 2018 we welcomed the introduction of a UK-wide criminal defence against inadvertent dispensing errors.

The new law will remove the threat of criminal sanctions for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in registered pharmacies in the event of them making an inadvertent error during dispensing, if the conditions for the defence apply.

The new law should encourage improved reporting and learning from errors by pharmacy professionals.

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said:

“The quality of care people receive is improved when professionals learn from mistakes and share that learning with others.

“We know there are already a number of local and national initiatives across England, Scotland and Wales to encourage reporting and learning from errors, which are making a difference. We would encourage everyone working within pharmacy to play their part to contribute to a culture of greater openness and learning, to improve the care people receive.

“For our part, we will be considering how we can better use and share the information we receive about dispensing errors to support learning, reduce risks and improve patient outcomes.

“We recognise that the possibility of action by the regulator can also deter people from reporting errors. It is important to emphasise that single dispensing errors would not in our view constitute a fitness to practise concern, unless there were aggravating factors.”

The four UK Health departments will shortly begin a consultation on extending these same defences to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in settings other than registered pharmacies, a change that we support and are keen to see made at the earliest opportunity.

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