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Superintendent update on dispensing process

NPA Essential

Superintendent update on dispensing process

Providing you with the answers. Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Pharmacist at the NPA, on best practice for dispensing

When dispensing errors occur, pharmacists are sometimes unsure of what they can do to try to prevent the same error from happening again.

As Medication Safety Officer for all community pharmacies in England with fewer than 50 branches, I look at the error report forms submitted by pharmacies using the NPA Patient Safety Incident report form. Frequently, these reports show that the error occurred because of a problem or weakness at a particular point in the dispensing process.

An investigation into the cause of the error may reveal that the pharmacy’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not followed correctly, but sometimes the SOP itself may need to be amended.

To help pharmacists ensure that their dispensing process SOPs are designed to optimise patient safety, and that pharmacy teams are working in a safe and effective manner, the NPA Pharmacy Services team has produced a new resource – 'Dispensing process: best practice' – which covers best practice regarding:

  • The dispensing environment
  • Taking in a prescription
  • Clinical and legal assessment of the prescription
  • Assembling and labelling
  • Accuracy checking and bagging
  • Handing out dispensed items
  • Patient consultation
  • Record-keeping
  • Additional considerations for dispensing Controlled Drugs and medicines in monitored dosage systems.

This resource is intended for guidance purposes only, to provide information on best practice regarding the dispensing process.

This may help minimise the risk of dispensing errors occurring while providing patient centred care. It is intended to aid you when reviewing your pharmacy’s SOPs covering the dispensing process.

It is not intended to be used as a SOP.

For further information on this or any other query, please contact the NPA Pharmacy Services team on 01727 891 800 or email


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