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Physicians' Practice of Dispensing Medicines: A Qualitative Study

Darbyshire, Daniel MRCS, FHEA, PGCert (MedEd); Gordon, Morris MRCPCH, MMed, FHEA, FAcadMEd; Baker, Paul FRCP, FRCGP, DipEd; Bates, Damian FCEM; Agius, Steven PhD

doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000122
Original Articles

Objectives The physical act of giving medication to patients to administer away from a health care setting, dispensing, is normally performed by pharmacists. Dispensing of medication by physicians is a neglected patient safety issue, and having observed considerable variation in practice, the lead author sought to explore this issue further. A literature review yielded zero articles pertaining to this, so an exploratory study was commenced. The qualitative arm, relating to junior physicians' experience of, and training in, dispensing, is reported here.

Methods Focus groups were conducted to explore the beliefs, ideas, and experiences of physicians-in-training pertaining to dispensing of medication. These were recorded and transcribed. The transcriptions were thematically analyzed using the grounded theory.

Results The emergency department was the most common site of dispensing. No formal training in dispensing had been received. Informal training was variable in content and utility. The physicians felt that dispensing was part of their role.

Conclusions Despite being expected to dispense, and the patient safety issues involved in giving drugs to patients to use at home, physicians do not feel that they have been trained to undertake this task. These findings from 1 hospital raise questions about the wider quality and safety of this practice.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

From the *Department of Urology, Salford Royal Hospital; †Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Salford, Salford; ‡Department of Paediatrics, Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Blackpool; §North Western Postgraduate Deanery, Manchester; and ∥Emergency Department, Royal Bolton Hospital, Bolton, UK.

Correspondence: Daniel Darbyshire, MRCS, FHEA, PGCert (MedEd), 22 Rostrevor Avenue, Stockton-on-Tees, TS19 9HW, UK (e-mail:

The authors disclose no conflict of interest.

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