UK: Pharmacy Brief - March 2015 – Issue 73

Last Updated: 9 March 2015
Article by David Reissner

London and Manchester Pharmacy Conferences

We have chosen new venues for this year's London and Manchester pharmacy conferences because we have been over-subscribed in the past.

Our conferences will take place on 15 April 2015 at Stationers' Hall, Ave Maria Lane, London EC4M 7DD, and on 16 April 2015 at the Hilton DoubleTree, One Piccadilly Place, 1 Auburn Street, Manchester M1 3DG. The programme will include:

  • Market entry update – insights into recent decisions
  • Regulatory update – red flags and forthcoming changes in pharmacy law
  • Transactions and the impact of employment law
  • How does the GPhC Fitness to Practise Committee make decisions? Take part in a mock hearing

The conferences are free, subject to availability. To request a place, contact

Terms of Service – Repeat Dispensing

The market entry regulations don't get updated very often, but from 1 March 2015, the NHS terms of service were amended to require pharmacy owners to support the uptake of the repeat dispensing service by informing patients on long-term, stable medical conditions of the benefits of the service. Appropriate patients must be encouraged to discuss repeat dispensing with their GP.

Medical Innovation

At the time of writing, it is far from clear whether Lord Saatchi's controversial Medical Innovation Bill will reach the Statute book. The Bill was due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 27 February. The bill is intended to "encourage responsible innovation in medical treatment and to deter reckless departure from standard practice". If the Bill is passed, the law will be changed so that a doctor cannot be sued for negligence if he or she departs from the pre-existing range of accepted treatments for a condition, provided the doctor acts responsibly. The Bill makes no mention of pharmacists: so if a doctor goes out on a limb by prescribing something experimental or prescribes a medicine that is not licensed for the patient's condition, an injured patient would not be able to sue the doctor. But the Bill would not prevent patients from suing pharmacists who dispense prescriptions for experimental or unlicensed medicines.

A waste of taxpayers' money

Some years ago, we went to the Court of Appeal to establish on behalf of a client that if a Primary Care Trust or NHS England believes a pharmacy owner has been overpaid, the NHS body must use the procedures in NHS Regulations for recovering the sum claimed.

One CCG recently ignored the NHS procedures and issued court proceedings against our client. It also instructed solicitors to apply for a draconian court order, allowing its solicitors to enter our client's pharmacy to search for any evidence that our client had over-claimed fees, and the CCG obtained without notice to our client an injunction freezing his assets. This highly damaging action caused great disruption to our client's business and to patients. We put forward our client's case at a hearing and the court decided the search order and injunction ought not to have been granted. The judge ordered the CCG to pay own our client's legal costs in addition to its own legal fees.

Regulatory Change – Decriminalisation this Year

The Government has just responded to proposals from the Law Commission on the Regulation of Health Care Professionals. The Government will make new laws:

  • Regulators will be given power to carry out language checks prior to registration
  • Convictions for certain serious criminal offences will lead to automatic striking off
  • Regulators will be given power to cancel referrals to fitness to practise hearings
  • The Government wants to ensure that a single incident – which would not come within the meaning of deficient professional performance - can be dealt with at a Fitness to Practise hearing.
  • The test for referring cases to a fitness to practise hearing will be whether there is a realistic prospect that the professional's fitness to practise is impaired and it is in the public interest to refer the case to a full hearing
  • If a healthcare professional has not been notified that a complaint has been made, and the complaint is not taken forward, there will be no obligation to tell the professional that the case has been closed, in case this would harm an ongoing relationship with a patient or carer
  • Pharmacy premises standards will be enforced via the Fitness to Practise Committee.

The Government intends to change the law on superintendent pharmacists, and responsible pharmacists in 2015 and also to decriminalise dispensing errors this year.

Data Protection

Patient data must not only be protected from disclosure to third parties. It is illegal to access data improperly. A pharmacist was recently prosecuted by the Information Commissioner because, when working at a GP practice, the pharmacist accessed the medical records of family members and work colleagues. He was convicted and fined Ł1000, ordered to compensate victims, and pay prosecution costs.

It's a Deal

Our Pharmacy Transactions Team is seeing a high volume of instructions for sale and purchase work. Transactions concluded since our last edition include acting for:-

  • Omega Pharma group upon the acquisition by The Learning Pharmacy Ltd of London based Warman Freed Pharmacy from Savegreen Limited and associated property arrangements
  • Anthony Woolley on the sale of Merseyside based Bispham Road Pharmacy Ltd to B Pharma Limited
  • Kevin Smith and other members of Barrington Healthcare Limited on the sale of the Northants based health centre pharmacy operator to Thorchurch Limited (sale brokered by Hutchings Consultants.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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David Reissner
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