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08 June 2015

Pharmacists could be protected from criminal proceedings for dispensing errors

Pharmacists could be protected from criminal proceedings for ‘genuine’ dispensing errors under new proposed legislation.

Currently under the Medicines’ Act, Pharmacists face criminal charges if they admit to making a mistake with the dispensation of drugs, however under a new system proposed by ministers if a genuine mistake is made where someone is harmed they would not face prosecution.

Voluntary reporting shows just 10,000 medication errors out of a billion prescriptions issued in a year, but research suggests that a quarter of a million patients are given the wrong medicine in the same time frame. According to an NHS report the vast majority of mistakes did not result in harm, however there were fatalities due to errors with medication.

Three deaths were linked to pharmacies in 2014 including an 83 year old man who received blood pressure drugs instead of paracetamol, with seven deaths linked to high street chemists since 2009. 

Health Ministers want to see a no fault reporting system for the UK’s pharmacies in the hope it will provide more accurate information about the number of mistakes made by Pharmacists.


The Department of Health hopes that by decriminalising mistakes, Pharmacy professionals will learn from their mistakes and patients will get better, safer care and is currently considering feedback from a consultation about the proposed law change.

However those who have been affected by mistakes feel that the law should be left alone and that a change in the law is not necessary, as those who make mistakes are currently not held accountable.

Tammy Hawkins whose mother Dawn Britton died as a result of wrongly dispensed drugs in 2013 told BBC 5 live Investigates “The CPS looked at it twice and both times they said it was not in the public’s interest to prosecute. I feel angry no one’s accountable for my mother’s death.”

Lawyers are also sceptical as to whether the change will bring significant improvements in safety and simply protect pharmacists from accountability rather than protect the public.

If you or a loved one have experienced a similar case of negligence and would like to discuss your claim please contact one of our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors.