Hospital Dr News

New initiative launched to reduce prescribing and medication errors in the NHS

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched an initiative to reduce prescribing and medication errors across the NHS.

Researchers suggest that errors cause 712 deaths a year in England and may be implicated in between 1,700 and 22,303 others.

About 270m drug errors happen every year, though three-quarters result in no harm to patients, according to the research findings, which were commissioned by the government.

Under Hunt’s plans hospitals will be able to access prescribing data collected by an admitted patient’s GP to see if drugs they have been taking have led to them being admitted to hospital.

Initially that will involve only patients being treated for gastro-intestinal bleeding, which can cause harm or death.

Doctors will be able to check, for example, if a patient has been taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug but not been given another drug to reduce the chances of them suffering digestive bleeding. The system will be extended later to other conditions.

The introduction of electronic prescribing systems into the NHS, which only a third of acute trusts have, will also be sped up.

The new research estimates that 71% of the 270m annual drug errors occur when patients see a GP or practice nurse. Mistakes happen more often with older patients and those who have a number of illnesses and who use many medications.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “While the vast majority of prescribing is carried out to a high standard, adverse incidents can still occur.

“The NHS needs to learn from these instances, and we hope these plans will lead to improved systems in hospitals and community settings that reduce the possibility of errors as much as possible.

“GP practices are facing increasing demand on their services, with patients presenting with increasingly complex health problems, so the Government needs to continue to work with us to establish a workforce strategy including enabling practices to expand their multi-disciplinary team to help meet patients’ needs.

“This includes the greater involvement of pharmacists working in, or linked to, practices and surgeries.”

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed Hunt’s initiative but warned mistakes can occur because of “intense resource and workforce pressures, meaning that workloads and working hours are often unsafe for GPs and our teams”.

She added: “The long-lasting solution to this is a properly funded NHS with enough staff to deliver safe patient care.”

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