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Will the pharmacy minister move from words to actions on decriminalisation?


08 Sep 2017

New pharmacy minister Steve Brine has promised to lay long-awaited decriminalisation legislation before Parliament. But will he be true to his word, asks The Pharmacist’s editor Beth Kennedy.

To say that community pharmacy is tired of waiting for a shift in the law on accidental dispensing errors would be something of an understatement.

A defence for inadvertent dispensing errors made in community pharmacy – currently still a criminal offence – was first mooted in 2015. But flash forward two years and we’ve still not seen any movement to actually implementing the required amendment to the Medicines Act.

It’s no secret that this is one issue that all pharmacists would dearly like to see addressed once and for all.

But laying the legislation before Government has been continuously pushed back, with each delay more soul destroying than the last. Indeed, I’ve banged on about how unutterably frustrating these setbacks have been before.

Well, it seems that change may be afoot, after new pharmacy minister Steve Brine used his address at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) annual conference on Monday to tell delegates that he is ‘committed’ to seeing the legislation laid before Parliament.

So that’s good then, right?

The optimist in me says ‘yes’. After all, a ‘commitment’ to change is some movement on the Department of Health’s somewhat peely-wally promise to legislate for decriminalisation ‘at the earliest opportunity’ the last time The Pharmacist approached it on the subject.

But I’m afraid I simply can’t get too excited that we might finally see accidental dispensing errors decriminalised in the absence of a fixed date for laying the legislation before Parliament.

A commitment to change is, of course, better than nothing. But I suspect Mr Brine’s well-intentioned words won’t be much comfort to stressed out pharmacists if it takes many more months – let alone years – for change to materialise.

It’s time for you to move from word to actions on this important issue, Mr Brine.


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