Skip to content

Faye Marks, solicitor in Lyons Davidson’s Clinical Negligence team, looks at new laws on pharmacy dispensing errors. 

After a long-running campaign from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), a new law on dispensing errors came into force on 16 April 2018. The Pharmacy (Preparation and Dispensing Errors – Registered Pharmacies) Order 2018 introduces new legal defences to prevent the automatic criminalisation of inadvertent dispensing errors made by registered pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, bringing pharmacists in line with other healthcare professionals.

Reporting dispensing errors

According to the RPS, pharmacy professionals report various reasons as to why they find it difficult to report and learn from mistakes. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of under-reporting is due to fear of criminal prosecution.

Improving patient safety

It is expected that removing the fear of criminal prosecution for inadvertent dispensing errors will help improve patient safety by encouraging a more open culture of reporting such errors, including ‘near misses’, where pharmacy professionals feel able to report, discuss and learn from mistakes, thus preventing the same errors from occurring in the future.

The legislation currently only applies to registered pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in registered pharmacies and does not apply to pharmacists working in non-registered premises, such as hospital pharmacies or prisons. The RPS is campaigning to ensure that a similar change will soon apply in those and other settings.

If you have any questions in relation to this article or wish to discuss a potential clinical negligence claim, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by emailing Clinical Negligence partner Joanna Laidlaw at [email protected].