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Minimising your risk of dispensing errors

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Minimising your risk of dispensing errors

A new NPA resource details best practice regarding the dispensing process to help minimise the risk of errors

Dispensing environment:

  • Have clear signage indicating where patients should hand in prescriptions and collect dispensed items
  • Organise the dispensary to minimise distractions – for example, keeping background noise such as music to a minimum
  • Promote a dispensary atmosphere that encourages good concentration
  • Designate segregated areas of the dispensary for various stages of the dispensing process in order to promote safe workflow
  • Use baskets/trays to separate prescriptions for individual patients on the workbenches during the dispensing process
  • Enable patients to discuss information/ issues confidentially, or receive additional pharmacy services, in a consultation room
  • Ensure patients are able to receive information in a manner appropriate to their needs (refer to the NPA’s “Accessible Information Standard” resources)
  • Ensure that the dispensary equipment and facilities meet health and safety requirements and are ergonomically designed
  • Ensure that daily/weekly/monthly checks are made as per the pharmacy’s standard operating procedures (SOPs)

Additional considerations:

  • Ensure that the pharmacy premises meets the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC’s) or the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI’s) standards (as applicable)

Clinical and legal assessment:

  • Check the prescription complies with legal requirements
  • Take into account factors such as age, sex and weight of patient and assess the prescription for clinical appropriateness
  • Where, in your professional judgement, the prescription may not be clinically appropriate, take steps to obtain additional information in order to come to a final decision. Consider:
    • Discussing issues with the prescriber and/ or patient
    • Checking appropriate reference materials (eg, British National Formulary [BNF]),
    • Contacting the NPA Pharmacy Services team for advice if required
  • Where, in your professional judgement, the prescription is not legally valid and/or clinically appropriate, inform the patient or representative of the decision, and the rationale, and refer them back to the prescriber or liaise with the prescriber directly
  • Where, in your professional judgement, your final decision is that the prescription is legally valid and clinically appropriate, then prepare and attach any appropriate notes for the patient or attach the relevant alert sticker

Additional considerations:

  • Be careful with Controlled Drug (CD) prescriptions and prescriptions written by an EEA doctor or dentist
  • Call the NPA’s Pharmacy Services team for advice if required
  • Where an accredited checking technician (ACT) is responsible for accuracy checking, discreetly mark the prescription to indicate that the prescription has been clinically assessed and initial the annotation

The above is an extract from the resource ‘Dispensing process – best practice.’ The complete resource covers assembly and labelling, taking in and receiving a prescriptions and extra guidance for MDSs and CDs.
NPA members can access the complete resource at

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