The pharmacy bodies are pleased to hear the commitment of Lord Howe (Tuesday 13 March) to a review of sanctions and penalties in medicines legislation.
Responding during a parliamentary debate on the Health and Social Care Bill to Lord Tim Clement Jones, the Minister said:
“I and my ministerial colleagues are determined to ensure that we address the concerns of pharmacists and registered pharmacy technicians about the risk of prosecution for inadvertent as opposed to wilful or reckless dispensing errors. We and the profession want to see a learning culture that encourages the reporting of dispensing errors so that any helpful lessons can be learnt. Equally, we must make sure that any changes we introduce continue to give patients protection under the law and do not in any way compromise patient safety....The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency intends to carry out a review of sanctions and penalties in medicines legislation..... This will be a significant and wide-ranging review [and] the MHRA would aim to scope the coverage, conduct and timetable of the review by September 2012...”
The pharmacy bodies (GHP, IPF, PDA, PSNC, PV & RPS) have been working collaboratively and extensively with government to gain a solution to the issue of the automatic criminalisation of dispensing errors. We are disappointed that a solution has yet to be realised, however we recognise that this is a very complex matter that requires further detailed work. We now have a clearer commitment from the government about how and when this will happen.
After taking detailed legal opinion, it became apparent that we could not support the idea of introducing into law a ‘due diligence defence’ against prosecution for dispensing errors. It is good that this has been removed from the current legislative approach, and for there to be a focus on addressing the fundamentals at the heart of this matter.
We will now continue our concerted work with government to create a programme of activity that delivers the sentiments in Lord Howe’s words. We firmly believe that we can achieve an open and learning culture within the profession that will increase patient safety through the ability to share learning about mistakes and also to remove the fear of prosecution that pharmacists face in their day to day practice.