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Medication errors cost the NHS £1.6bn a year, DHSC reveals

Medication errors cost the NHS £1.6bn a year, DHSC reveals

23 February 2018

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Medication errors cost the NHS billions of pounds each year, according to research commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and York found that medication errors cost the NHS £1.6bn every year.

They estimate that these ‘may cause around 1,700 death and contribute to up to 22,000 deaths’ every year.

Medication errors cost the NHS billions of pounds each year, according to research commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and York found that medication errors cost the NHS £1.6bn every year.

They estimate that these ‘may cause around 1,700 death and contribute to up to 22,000 deaths’ every year.

Although most NHS prescriptions are safely dispensed, there are around 237 million drug errors every year, which can occur anywhere in prescribing, dispensing, administering and monitoring. 

Improving patient safety

Health and Social Care secretary Jeremy Hunt will today (23 February) introduce new initiatives to ‘improve patient safety in the NHS’.

Speaking at the Global Patient Safety summit in London, he will say that ‘medication error in the NHS and globally is a far bigger problem than generally recognised, causing appalling levels of harm and death that are totally preventable’.

He will add: ‘We are taking a number of steps today, but part of the change needs also to be cultural: moving from a blame culture to a learning culture so doctors and nurses are supported to be open about mistakes rather than cover them up for fear of losing their job.'

The measures include:

– New systems linking prescribing data in primary care to hospital admissions, which will allow the NHS to check whether a patient was admitted to hospital because of the prescription.

– Accelerating the introduction of electronic-prescribing systems across more NHS hospitals this year, which could reduce errors by up to 50%.

‘Complex process’

Currently, one third of trusts have a well-functioning e-prescribing system.

Responding to Mr Hunt’s plans, British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Prescribing is a complex process and with multiple potential interactions, particularly when elderly people are taking large numbers of different medications.

‘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.’

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