The Government is consulting on changing the law to decriminalise dispensing errors for pharmacists working in hospitals and other settings such as prisons, it announced today (19 June).

If passed, the legislation will provide hospital pharmacists and technicians with a legal defence for inadvertent dispensing errors. This will bring the sector in line with community pharmacy, for which similar legislation came into effect in April.

However, in the same month, pharmacy minister Steve Brine said that prosecution for the most serious errors – such as when a mistake leads to a patient death – will still be possible.


'Whole profession on equal footing'


Pharmacy organisations have welcomed the move.

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Ash Soni said: 'The RPS has continued calling on the Government to introduce these vital changes...which should help to put the whole profession on an equal footing.

'The Government must now ensure that these changes will work in practice to reduce the fear of prosecution, encouraging a culture where people feel able to report errors and learn from mistakes to improve patient safety.'

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: 'It is important that defences for dispensing errors are extended to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and other specified settings at the earliest possible opportunity, and the launch of the consultation is a step towards that.

'This UK-wide consultation includes a number of significant proposals. We would encourage all those working across the pharmacy sector, as well as patients and the public, to take part in the consultation and help shape the final legislation.'

The DHSC will analyse the consultation responses and publish a response within 12 weeks of its closing date on 11 September, it said.