The new pharmacy minister, Steve Brine MP, has made a “personal priority” to decriminalise dispensing errors.
Speaking yesterday (September 4) at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference in Birmingham, he told delegates he shared their frustration at the delay in introducing the legislation.
Decriminalisation is necessary to improve patient safety by learning from more error reporting, he said. Mr Brine was speaking on the day that health secretary Jeremy Hunt launched an initiative to reduce prescribing and medication errors.
The minister told delegates the Government recognises it has not made best use of the skills and knowledge of pharmacy teams. “I am determined to correct this.”
Pharmacists are highly regarded by colleagues in Government – “no question about it” – and are “part of the solution”, he said. Community pharmacy is one of the most positive and ‘can do’ parts of the NHS.
The Department of Health wants to see better integration within the community setting across commissioning and public health pathways. “We want to encourage more people to use community pharmacy and reduce demand on local GPs and hospitals,” he said.
Mr Brine praised healthy living pharmacies, saying he was “delighted” to see growing numbers of community pharmacy teams promoting health in their communities. “Thank you... for working with us positively on that,” he said. “Health champions play a central role in improving health and reducing health inequalities.”
He also had warm words for the national pharmacy flu vaccination service and pharmacists’ role in the Stoptober stop smoking campaign and ‘Stay well this winter’ initiative. The minister added that pharmacists had a full part to play in combatting antimicrobial resistance and was impressed with the number of antibiotic guardians in the profession.
However, Mr Brine made no comment about the funding situation in community pharmacy or gave any indication as to when negotiations would resume between the DH and PSNC, which disappointed delegates and those following his speech on social media.
Pharmacists are part of the solution