Tendering for Public Health Services

When public health services are put out to tender, it is important that the commissioner is fair, transparent and sticks to its own rules for scoring. We recently acted for clients whose bids to provide supervised consumption and other services were unsuccessful. We pointed out a number of deficiencies to the local authority, and the local authority agreed to re-run the tender without the need for our clients to go to court. Anyone aggrieved by a procurement decision will only have days to challenge it so it is essential to seek legal advice urgently.

POM supplies by Public Health England

The Department of Health has amended the Human Medicines Regulations to enable Public Health England to supply prescription only medicines under a patient group direction. The Department did not carry out a full impact assessment as it considered there would be no, or no significant, impact on the sector.

Data Protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office is looking hard at the health sector because sensitive personal data is used, and heavy fines can be imposed for breaches of the Data Protection Act. A pharmacist was recently convicted of breaching data law, and an eye care company has been warned to stop sending out nuisance text messages or face further action.

All pharmacies should ensure they have transparent data privacy notices and appropriate policies and procedures to deal with compliance, particularly with increase in electronic processing and paperless records. Problems can be minimised by explaining to patients that prescription information is maintained to help with their care, how and data will be used. Consent can be obtained by including some suitable wording, for example on forms that patients sign when they sign up for a collection and delivery service. For further information on data protection and cyber security compliance please contact us

Internet Pharmacy

As soon as the MHRA can get the technology in place, all UK internet pharmacies will have to display this logo.

Fitness to Practise

Sanctions A GPhC consultation on fitness to practise sanctions has recently closed.

The proposed sanctions look like a common-sense way forward. In relation to cases of dishonesty, which provoked a lively debate at our recent conferences in London and Manchester, the GPhC view is that “cases of dishonesty can be complicated and that committees should carefully consider the context and circumstances in which the dishonesty took place. Therefore, although serious, there should not be a presumption of removal in all cases involving dishonesty.”

The GPhC proposes to distinguish between cases where dishonesty occurred in the context of a pharmacy or elsewhere. Defrauding the NHS is likely to be a striking off matter.

Decriminalisation

A decriminalisation consultation has just ended; asking for views on the introduction of a defence to the crime of making a dispensing error. Some of the proposals are not sensible, and the intended reforms will still leave pharmacists exposed to the risk of conviction if they apply the wrong dispensing label to an item, or they may simply find themselves prosecuted under a different regulation to the one for which a statutory defence will be introduced. The relatively recent police caution given to a Boots pharmacist, in spite of the CPS guidance for prosecutors, shows that the police are likely to ignore the statutory defence to one offence if they can simply charge or caution a pharmacist for a different offence. The sensitivities of the profession and the work of the Rebalancing Committee are likely to count for nothing if decriminalisation is only partly addressed.

When the Human Medicines Regulations replaced most of the Medicines Act in 2012, the labelling offence was altered. We pointed this out to the MHRA at the time, and the MHRA has just got around to restoring the original labeling offence which was the one used to convict Elizabeth Lee for giving out Propanalol labeled as Prednisolone. As from 1 July 2015, the offence will again only apply to the owner of a pharmacy business. This means that individual pharmacists who own a pharmacy, and companies that own a pharmacy, will commit an offence if labels are transposed, whether a patient is injured or not. The Rebalancing Committee has not proposed any statutory defence when this happens