Health Secretary initiative to tackle prescribing and medication errors

Health Secretary initiative to tackle prescribing and medication errors

September 11, 2017

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

The Secretary of State is working closely with the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer in NHS England, Keith Ridge, to tackle the challenge.

The work was confirmed by Pharmacy Minister Steve Brine MP in his speech to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Annual Conference last week, and also in media reports of comments from Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Brine said that studies currently indicate that up to 8% of prescriptions have a mistake in dosage level, course length or medication type – a risk which the WHO identifies as “a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm in health care systems across the world”.

“Patient education and safe management of information will be at the heart of our efforts to tackle this serious issue. For example, we will need to improve how we use electronic prescribing, as well as how we transfer information about medicines between care settings, where there is significant scope for errors,” Mr Brine said.

Mr Brine confirmed his commitment to seeing legislation on dispensing errors in community pharmacy laid, but said that in return, pharmacy professionals would need to “continue to increase the reporting of, and learning from, incidents”.

PSNC Chief Executive Sue Sharpe said:

“It is unfortunately inevitable that some errors will occur in prescribing: medicines will be omitted; doses may be unintentionally altered; and on rare occasions the wrong medicine may be prescribed. Tackling these must not be a question of blame: we must instead focus on ensuring that safeguards are in place to minimise errors and to spot and correct any that do occur.

Community pharmacists have an important role to play and can and do make valuable contributions to patient and medications safety. Many have recently been reflecting on patient safety incidents that have been recorded over the last year, looking for potential trends and identifying changes in processes that could prevent errors occurring in the future.  This is then summarised in an annual patient safety report, which forms part of the Quality Payments Scheme.

Community pharmacy teams keep records of their patients’ medication and so can spot some errors and resolve the problems with patients’ GP practices. Their expertise in medicines combined with a knowledge of the patient is an important part of the system that minimises risks of system errors, and local pharmacies will continue to work with NHS colleagues to help protect patients.”

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