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08 Dec 09

Mistakes in Hospital Prescriptions

03 Dec 09

According to a research study commissioned by the General Medical Council, nearly one in 10 hospital prescriptions contain a mistake, ranging from the minor to the potentially lethal.

But they found the overwhelming majority were picked up before reaching the patient and very few errors that would have caused serious harm.

Examining over 120,000 prescriptions across 19 hospitals - they found just under 9% contained errors, and of these 11,077 errors, overwhelmingly intercepted and corrected before reaching the patient, about 2% contained potentially lethal instructions - such as failing to take account of a patient's allergies.

More than half involved errors in which a patient's medication was not prescribed on admission, during a rewrite of a prescription, or when the patient was sent home.
Another 40% were accounted for by prescriptions where the writing was illegible or the wording ambiguous.

Very few of these mistakes caused actual harm to a patient because on the whole they were stopped by senior doctors, nurses - and in particular pharmacists.

Concerns remain however, that although the safety net is effective, some doctors may rely on it to pick up their mistakes.

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