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Saturday 22nd October 2016

Prescription errors in hospitals

3rd December 2009

A study commissioned by the General Medical Council has found that almost a tenth of hospital prescriptions contain a mistake.


They range from the minor to potentially lethally, though the GMC study found that very few errors would have caused serious harm.

To help cut down on errors, the body wants to see standard prescription charts that are already used in Wales introduced across the UK.

Professor Peter Dornan of the University of Manchester led the team examining the issue after concerns that inexperienced doctors were making prescription errors.

However, it found that novice doctors were no more responsible for mistakes than the more experienced ones.

The team looked at 124,260 prescriptions across 19 hospitals and found just under 9% contained errors. Of these 11,077 errors, which were overwhelmingly intercepted and corrected before reaching the patient, about 2% contained potentially lethal instructions such as failing to take account of allergies.

About 40% were due to illegible writing or ambiguous wording.

Most mistakes were picked up by senior doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Professor Dornan said: “The research shows the complexity of the circumstances in which errors occur and argues against education as a single quick-fix solution.”

GMC chairman Professor Peter Rubin, said: "Prescribing decisions in a hospital setting often have to be made quickly, so it is important that a procedure is as simple as possible to minimise the chance of an error being made.”

The Department of Health said it would continue to look into the benefits of electronic prescribing systems.


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