New pharmacy minister Steve Brine is ‘committed’ to seeing legislation decriminalising accidental dispensing errors laid before Parliament, he has said.

The frustration pharmacists feel at delays in implementing decriminalisation for community pharmacists is ‘shared’, Mr Brine told delegates at the Royal Pharmacuetical Society’s (RPS) annual conference in Birmingham yesterday (4 September).

Proposed legislation

Removing the threat of criminal sanctions for inadvertent errors by community pharmacists was consulted on by the Department of Health (DH) 2015, but change has yet to materialise.

The DH consulted on creating a defence for pharmacists under sections 63 and 64 of the Medicines Act 1968 , which would protect pharmacists who had made an accidental mistake, but retain criminal sanctions for those who had ‘acted unprofessionally’.

Mr Brine is ‘similarly committed’ to consulting on equivalent legislation for hospital pharmacists, he told delegates.

Learning from mistakes

In return, pharmacy professionals should increase the reporting of and learning from inadvertent errors, Mr Brine told delegates

He said: ‘Building on the good work to date…will improve patient care and reduce the risk of harm.

‘I also look forward to exploring with the profession further elements of the Rebalancing Programme, ensuring that the legislative framework is fit to support the role we see for pharmacy professionals in the future, and ensuring that high quality care and continuing improvement remains at the centre of all that we do.’

The DH will legislate for decriminalisation ‘at the earliest opportunity’, it told The Pharmacist earlier this year.