Pharmacy legislation: Government consultation [closes 14 May] on learning from dispensing errors #ptsafety

“Encouraging pharmacy professionals to report, share and learn from mistakes improves patient safety through ensuring mistakes aren’t repeated.” – from the FAQ.

This is a Government consultation which will close on Thursday 14 May and is to do with community pharmacies (high street, not hospitals). It is about looking at ways of reducing the threat of criminal sanctions on pharmacists who inadvertently dispense the wrong item or amount. The reasoning behind this is explicitly to encourage pharmacists to be more confident in sharing, and learning from, errors – ie transparency. This seems pretty encouraging.

The relevant documents are on this page – Open consultation: Pharmacy legislation on dispensing errors and standards.

Some information excerpted from the FAQ is below:

Q – What does ‘rebalancing’ mean?
Rebalancing is about ensuring the right balance between Government legislation and professional regulation to ensure the safety of users of pharmacy services while encouraging responsible development in practice.

About the rebalancing programme
Q – What does the programme cover?
It is looking to address recent changes in pharmacy practise to enable pharmacy professionals to do more for patients and the public.

Q – What will it achieve?
Key outcomes include:
• a continuous focus on safety for patients and the public through learning from dispensing errors as a result of increased reporting of errors;

Why is this happening, and what does it mean?
Q – What does this mean for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians?
… A priority for the programme board has been to examine medicines legislation relating to dispensing errors. It recognises that the fear of prosecution for inadvertent dispensing errors affects the level of reporting of such errors, by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and therefore the learning from these errors.

Q – If we are relaxing the rules, won’t this lead to a fall in standards?
We are not relaxing the rules. By removing the threat of criminal sanctions for inadvertent dispensing errors, we are encouraging a culture which focuses on improving patient safety through more transparent reporting and learning from mistakes. Pharmacy professionals who are wilfully negligent or set out to cause deliberate harm will still face criminal prose-cution, as is the case with all healthcare professionals.

Q – When will you address dispensing errors by pharmacy professionals in hospi-tals?
[this seems to be under consideration]

Q – Why is criminal prosecution such a concern? Isn’t it right to protect the public? Are you opening patients up to additional risk?
Knowing that a mistake can result in a criminal prosecution doesn’t necessarily mean that patients and the public are better protected. It can lead the pharmacy professional to be wary to report dispensing errors because they would admit to a criminal offence by doing so.

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