Automation poses 'increased risk' to patients, PDA warns GPhC

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Automation poses 'increased risk' to patients, PDA warns GPhC

Pharmacists' Defence Association chairman Mark Koziol has written to the General Pharmaceutical Council urging it to address pharmacists' concerns about the impact of automation and other technologies on patient safety and pharmacy practice.

In a letter to GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin, Mr Koziol (pictured) said anxious pharmacists had contacted the PDA because of procedures they are made to follow by their employers which he warned “will cause increased risk and the potential for patient harm".

The PDA also said it had recently received a “significant increase in calls” from members concerned about their roles, legal duties as a responsible pharmacist and ability to meet professional standards given the use of certain technologies such as artificial intelligence to make automated clinical checks.

Mr Koziol said that was “an area in which we are not aware of the existence of any independently verified or published safety data nor any professional consensus.”

He highlighted other concerns including how clinical safety and supervision can be carried out by online pharmacy providers when a pharmacist is unable to check a prescription, as well as “the relevance” of any checks carried out by an accuracy checking technician in circumstances where automation is relied upon. 

Mr Koziol also said there were concerns about prescriptions being put through to automation without being checked by a pharmacist in order to hit prescription volume targets. In some cases, he said, controlled drugs and “other high-risk medicines” were being dispensed without being checked by a pharmacist.

“Patients are being given assurances when errors are made that pharmacists are making clinical checks when the process being operated means that in many instances they are not. This has resulted in uncertainty over the entire integrity of the Responsible Pharmacist system and the safety it was supposed to deliver,” he said.

Mr Koziol revealed that members were also worried about internet pharmacy providers acting “as a portal for the provision of prescription-only medicines to the public without being a registered pharmacy premises.”

He added: “In some instances, there is no transparency to patients of the provenance of the prescription medicines provided to them and especially where patients can expect the protection of regulation.

"Steps must be taken to ensure that new technology is introduced in an evidence-based way."

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