UK pharmacy chief backs down on automation claims

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England’s chief pharmaceutical officer has backed down on his claims about automation reducing error rates, Chemist + Druggist reports.

Keith Ridge is on record as saying that error rates are lower in the hub-and-spoke model currently being pushed in the UK, and that pharmacists have a professional obligation to use automated dispensing processes.

Ridge said the error rate is about 3% for traditional community pharmacy, but in other countries the rate is much lower with “several zeros before the decimal place”.

Now, C+D reports that Ridge has apologised for being “inadvertently misleading” when he made these claims at an all-party pharmacy group event earlier this year.

In a statement Ridge says that the 3% claim in community pharmacy was based upon a 2009 paper including a UK observational study which quoted a rate of 3.32%; Ridge has clarified this claim with the author, Professor Bryony Dean Franklin, executive lead pharmacist research and director, Centre for Medication Safety and Service Quality, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

“Bryony is one of the world’s experts on medication error research,” Ridge said in the statement clarifying the earlier claims.

“In advance of the APPG hearing I spoke to Bryony who confirmed that in her view 3% remains about the dispensing error rate in community pharmacy, taking into account methodologies and definitions used, although there remains a paucity of good research.”

However Ridge says it was misleading to compare the 3% error rate to a 0.00001% error rate at “large scale automated dispensing facilities in Sweden” because of the way error rates are recorded.

“Now that I know the error rate from Sweden is determined by reporting, it is not appropriate draw a direct comparison.

“I apologise for inadvertently misleading the committee and for any subsequent confusion.

“However, I do remain of the view that automated centralised dispensing, underpinned by a robust quality assurance and regulatory system, resilient and implemented carefully, will improve safety and quality of patient care.”

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