Original pack dispensing (OPD) won’t take effect in England until issues around reimbursement and remuneration are resolved, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has told The Pharmacist.

Yesterday, the government published the results of its consultation into OPD and announced its intention to amend the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to allow OPD at the pharmacist’s discretion.

This would give pharmacists and pharmacy staff under the supervision of pharmacists the flexibility to dispense up to 10% more or less of a medicine than prescribed if it means they can dispense it in the original pack.

But while the potential for OPD would apply across the whole of the UK, the government said that it would not take effect in England, Wales or Northern Ireland until each administration had decided how it would be implemented.

PSNC’s legal director Gordon Hockey told The Pharmacist that the reforms were ‘important and long-awaited for’ but will not affect NHS dispensing until reimbursement and remuneration issues had been resolved through discussions with PSNC.

‘Contractors should not be disadvantaged by the reimbursement mechanisms around OPD,’ he added.

‘A long way to go’ to release capacity

Mr Hockey added that ‘this is just one of a number of capacity-releasing efficiencies that DHSC and NHS England promised to consider and implement as part of the 5-year CPCF’.

He added: ‘There is still a long way to go in easing the capacity burden on exhausted pharmacy teams.’

In the most recent Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) agreement, published in September 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) promised several legislative changes to support efficiency.

In addition to the changes on original pack dispensing and whole pack dispensing of sodium valproate, DHSC promised to launch a public consultation on legislative changes to allow pharmacy technicians to make use of Patient Group Directions, as well as a public consultation on legislative changes to enable community pharmacies to make better use of the available skill mix in pharmacies.

Those consultations have not yet been launched.

DHSC also said that it was considering the responses to a consultation on legislative changes to make hub and spoke dispensing models accessible to all community pharmacies, and that subject to the proposed medicines legislation amendments being made, it would have further discussions and progress any necessary amendments ‘with the aim of enabling implementation of these within NHS pharmaceutical services as soon as possible’.

But the hub and spoke legislation has yet to be amended.

Extend sodium valproate measures to other products

‘Patient safety is a central concern for medicines supply, so PSNC welcomes the proposal that medicines containing sodium valproate always be dispensed in whole packs’, said Mr Hockey.

But he suggested that dispensing in whole or sub packs should be extended to other products with special container criteria, which he said would ‘further improve patient safety’.

UK has been ‘out of step’ on dispensing

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA)’s head of advice and support services, Jasmine Shah, also welcomed the amendments relating to sodium valproate.

‘Dispensing in original packs wherever possible improves both efficiency and patient safety and is something the NPA has long advocated. The UK has been out of step with many other countries in terms of how dispensing is handled,’ she told The Pharmacist.

‘As the Medicines Safety Officer for the independent sector, enhancing safety of the supply of sodium valproate in particular is something we support,’ Ms Shah added.