Inadvertent single dispensing errors do not automatically constitute a fitness-to-practise concern and only become so if there are other ‘aggravating factors’, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.

The regulator today (16 April) welcomed new legislation providing pharmacists with a legal defence for inadvertent dispensing errors in the hope it that it will encourage pharmacists to report and learn from errors.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: ‘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-practice concern, unless there were aggravating factors.’

Aggravating factors in concerns around dispensing errors could include the pharmacist not being honest about the error, attempting to conceal it or not taking appropriate action attempting to mitigate the harm caused by the error, according to the GPhC.

The regulator also pointed to point 3.6 of its threshold criteria, which is taken into account in fitness-to-practise cases where pharmacists' conduct, performance and health aspects are called into question. The criteria means that the GPhC will take into account:

  • The behaviour and actions of the pharmacy professional
  • Whether the pharmacy professional’s actions were reckless or intentional
  • Whether the concern reflects a recurring issue, and
  • Whether the pharmacy professional acted with openness and honesty

Open culture needed

Mr Rudkin encouraged pharmacists 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,’ he said.

The community pharmacy sector has broadly welcomed the new legislation, but highlighted that there is still more to be done on the issue.

Read pharmacy law expert Noel Wardle’s guide to what decriminalising inadvertent dispensing errors means for you here.