Community pharmacists are unlikely to face a fitness-to-practise hearing if they report a patient safety incident that occurred in their pharmacy, professional regulators say.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said there has clearly been “significant under-reporting” of errors and safety incidents but that it did not consider a single dispensing error “with no aggravating factors” to be a fitness-to-practise matter.
The statement by the GPhC follows changes in the national contract for community pharmacy in England recently announced. In future, pharmacists will be required to name their community pharmacy when they report incidents to the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS).
The UK government has yet to introduce promised changes to medicines legislation that would ensure single dispensing errors are not a criminal offence.
National negotiators explained that the decision to abolish anonymity for community pharmacies in reporting errors follows concerns by NHS England that the profession is under-reporting patient safety incidents. In 2012, the number of patient safety incidents reported officially to the NRLS was 7,919 — less than one per pharmacy, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) revealed.
In a briefing paper on its website, the PSNC said the lack of anonymity would allow easier “shared learning” and “will help NHS England identify any pharmacies reporting significantly below expected levels so they can explore the reasons for this”.
The decision to remove anonymity and encourage more reporting follows recommendations from the Francis report published in February 2013 into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
That report recommended that all healthcare professionals should demonstrate that they were putting patient safety at the heart of everything they do.