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DECRIMINALISATION


DECRIMINALISATION:


A CAll to ACtIon!


tHE CASE of PHARMACISt MARtIn WHItE HAS, onCE AgAIn, StRUCK fEAR Into tHE HEARtS of noRtHERn IRElAnD’S CoMMUnItY PHARMACIStS. BUt RAtHER tHAn WAIt foR ‘SoMEtHIng to HAPPEn’, ClIff MCElHInnEY USED tHE RECEnt PHARMACY In foCUS AWARDS to lAUnCH tHE UCA’S oWn, PRoACtIVE ‘CAll to ACtIon’. PIf tAKES A CloSER looK…


I


n December last year, Antrim pharmacist Martin White was handed down a four-month


sentence suspended for two years after becoming the first to be prosecuted – and found guilty – over a dispensing error.


In february 2014, the 45-year-old Muckamore man dispensed the wrong medication to a grandmother, who subsequently became ill within moments of taking it and later died.


Despite the fact that the court was told by a pharmacy expert that he considered Martin to be guilty of ‘poor professional performance’ and not of ‘professional misconduct’,


8 - PHARMACY In foCUS


and despite the fact that Martin had had an unblemished 24-year pharmacy career, the guilty verdict was brought in.


the case was a tragedy for all concerned. the death of the patient – Mrs Ethna Walsh – had brought untold grief to her family, while Martin's QC said that his client was ‘racked with guilt’ and ‘destroyed with remorse’. Martin's error was, said the judge, the result of a 'momentary lapse in concentration'.


on 28 January this year, Ulster Chemists' Association President, Cliff McElhinney, took to the stage at


the Pharmacy in focus Awards and – in front of an audience of his peers, industry colleagues and representatives from the pharmaceutical industry – and tackled the issue head on.


‘first of all,’ Cliff told the audience, ‘it is important to acknowledge the terrible loss as a result of this incident. I do not seek to diminish the tragedy to the Walsh family and, as an organisation, we offer our sympathy to the friends and family of Mrs Walsh and wish to reassure them - and the general public – that we will learn from our errors.’


After reiterating what had happened on 6 february 2014, Cliff spoke about


what life as a pharmacist today entails and about how patient safety is uppermost in his – and in every other’s pharmacist’s mind - on a daily basis.


‘Every morning,’ Cliff told the audience, ‘when I walk into my dispensary, my focus is on patient safety. the worst thing I could do as a pharmacist is to inadvertently cause harm to a patient - hence the reason we all have Standard operating Procedures (SoPs), which are the basis for our practice and which are regularly reviewed to enhance best practice. the legal system in the UK is unfairly punitive on dispensing errors.


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