PDA raises the issue of competency as a root cause for critical incidents

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) on Tuesday published an urgent guidance for all its members following serious incidents involving GP practice-based pharmacists and those working in online pharmacies.

The trade union said the guidance will be sent to pharmacists in all areas of practice as many community and hospital pharmacists now either plan a move to GP practice-based work or are in the process of attaining their independent prescribing qualification.

PDA said its defence team is currently in the early stages of dealing with cases where patient deaths have been reported.

“Some of these recent cases are linked in some way to pharmacists prescribing inappropriately or offering poor advice, often underpinned by an assumption of competence which was ill-founded and we cannot impress upon members strongly enough the importance of seriously considering their levels of experience and skill at all times BEFORE making a clinical decision and  issuing a prescription,” a statement from the union said.

PDA has suggested pharmacists to take significant levels of caution while prescribing a medicine for the first time, even for a drug routinely supplied by them in a community pharmacy setting.

“The two settings or activities should not be conflated, or experience in one assumed to automatically confer expertise in the other,” the statement cautioned.

The guidance also lists high-risk scenarios such as:

  • Undertaking prescribing or providing clinical advice for patients who are not physically present
  • Undertaking prescribing for patients without reference to their clinical records
  • Undertaking prescribing for walk-in patients where a diagnosis may be required
  • Prescribing alternative medicines due to shortages

PDA urged members to contact the organisation immediately for expert advice in the event of something serious occurring or if they found themselves expected to adopt unsafe practices.

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