After a lengthy campaign, a legal measure protecting UK community pharmacists from criminal prosecution for inadvertent dispensing errors came into force on Monday 16 April. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) described this as “excellent news” but said more must be done to extend protection to pharmacists working in other care settings.

The legal defence, Pharmacy (Preparation and Dispensing Errors – Registered Pharmacies) Order 2018, which applies to registered pharmacies throughout the UK, includes clauses stipulating that pharmacists are safe from prosecution if they can provide evidence showing they were unaware a dispensing error had been made, and they had taken appropriate steps to notify patients on becoming aware of an error.

The RPS said that by reducing the fear of legal sanction, the move will create a “more open culture of error reporting,” ultimately increasing patient safety. President Ash Soni said: “This is excellent news for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and for patient safety.”

Glyn Walduck, head of claims at the National Pharmacy Association said: “The change should enable prosecutors to use Section 64 only in the most reckless cases, thus promoting fairness, proportionality and importantly, enabling the profession to continue on the path of openness and learning from mistakes.”

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, said: “We have advocated for this change in the law for a number of years and are delighted that it is now in effect. This should help bring real improvements to patient safety, by encouraging improved reporting and learning from errors by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in registered pharmacies.

“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.”

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