Department of Health and Social Care consult on Original Pack Dispensing

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has started a consultation on proposals to allow pharmacists to dispense prescription medicines in original packaging. This consultation, which closes on 13th December 2021, proposes changes to the Human Medicines Regulations (HMRs) which would mean:

  • pharmacists have flexibility to dispense (up to 10%) more or less than the prescribed quantity if that means they can dispense in the manufacturer’s original packs, except where this would negatively affect the patient’s clinical treatment regimen – so they have to make a judgement whether this is appropriate. This would not apply to controlled drugs.
  • the supply of sodium valproate must always be in original packaging regardless of the conditions we set around Original Pack Dispensing (OPD) (to ensure a patient information leaflet is provided with every supply)

Currently, contractors must supply the exact quantity prescribed, unless certain exceptions apply. This means that in many cases pharmacy staff need to split a manufacturer’s original pack in order to dispense the prescribed quantity.

In the consultation, DHSC has outlined some of the benefits of OPD for patients and contractors, subject to the professional judgement of the responsible pharmacist; as well as issues for GPs and manufacturers. DHSC state that by allowing community pharmacies to dispense medicines in their original packs, we believe OPD will help them to become more efficient and to free up their time for other tasks such as providing clinical services to patients.

OPD is one of a number of legislative changes intended to transform the supply and delivery of medicines that were envisaged in the 2019, 5-year deal agreed between DHSC, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I). Other changes include hub and dispensing available to all contractors and the better use of skill mix in pharmacies to enable the clinical integration of pharmacists. These changes have been delayed, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HMRs are UK wide, and form the basis for the NHS supply of medicines, but for contractors, it is NHS Pharmaceutical Regulations (determined by each devolved administration) that provide the arrangements for NHS services (and funding), including the Dispensing service. DHSC has indicated that OPD in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be delayed until the respective NHS regulations (and funding) are in place (Scotland has regulations in place already). PSNC is consulted on the regulations for England.

Capture healthcare advisory work not being covered by Pharmacy First to inform our negotiations with Government and NHS.

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