Last month saw the introduction of the ‘Preparation and Dispensing Errors - Registered Pharmacies Order’ legislation. The new legislation has been welcomed by many pharmacy leaders who see the order as a positive step towards protecting community pharmacists.

The new legal defence is designed to protect community pharmacists and pharmacy staff who make inadvertent dispensing errors. Ken Jarrold (chair of the Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board) drew up the recommendations for government said, ‘a change to the law would increase reporting of errors without the fear of prosecution.’ 1

It is believed that the new legislation will improve service and patient safety overall as pharmacy professionals will be more eager to share errors now that they have more personal protection.

Under the new order pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy staff (working under their care) will have a defence in law as long as they can demonstrate:

  • The error occurred as part of their work in a registered pharmacy
  • The individual had taken reasonable steps to notify the patient when the mistake became apparent
  • They were not misusing their professional skills for improper use
  • They showed regard for patient safety

The Concern

Some organisations and pharmacists have raised concerns that the new legislation may mislead community pharmacies and give the impression that there is no longer a risk of prosecution. Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) chairman, Mark Koziol has previously written to pharmacy minister Steve Brine to express these concerns. 2

It is important that pharmacists and pharmacy employees stay vigilant as there is still a chance that pharmacists who commit an inadvertent dispensing error will be investigated for a crime and face a jury.


  1. The Pharmaceutical Journal. ‘Pharmacy profession welcomes dispensing error decriminalisation legislation’ [online] Viewed April 2018
  2. Chemist and Druggist. ‘Dispensing error defence becomes law on April 16, but PDA concerned’ [online] Viewed April 2018