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Communication link to drug error

25th April 2008

Research by a team at the University of Reading has found "poor communication" is the most frequent reason behind patients being admitted to hospital because of "medication errors".

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Estimates show that one in every 15 people are admitted to hospital because of mistakes related to the medicine they were prescribed.

Quality and Safety in Healthcare published the results of the study, which also showed that some people were not give enough data relating to their prescription.

The research team examined 18 cases where people in Nottingham had to be admitted to hospital because of medication they had been prescribed by a GP.

Some people were given medication which prompted side-effects or allergies, some were not given the treatment they should have received and some were not checked up on.

The team conducted interviews with 62 GPs, pharmacists, nurses and patients. The results showed that a lack of communication between clinical staff and patients was the primary cause of the medication problems.

Study leader, Dr Rachel Howard, a researcher at the University of Reading, said their were multiple reasons behind mistakes in drug prescription.

"Technical solutions such as computerised assisted prescribing and the NHS patient care record are unlikely to be sufficient on their own to improve the situation," she added.

The team also discovered that some of the people they talked to did not feel comfortable asking doctors or pharmacists questions about their medication.

Co-author, Professor Tony Avery, from the University of Nottingham, said: "Simple communication is very important - even basic things like checking understanding."




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