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Medication Errors in the NHS

Medication Errors in the NHS

A new review of studies of medication errors in the UK has revealed shocking levels of mistakes, endangering patients' lives.

Occurrence of medication errors in the NHS

The recently-published review from Sheffield and York Universities analysed results from both primary and secondary care as well as care homes.

The analysis found that approximately 237 million medication mistakes are made in the NHS in the UK per year, of which roughly 28% could have potential for patient harm.

This amounts to around 66 million potentially serious problems. Most of these, almost three-quarters - are to be found in primary care where the majority of prescribing of medication is carried out.

Over one quarter of the overall total of medication errors was found to have the potential to cause moderate harm, with 2% (almost 5 million incidents) potentially causing severe harm.

Evidence was found that errors related to medication can occur at any point of the procedure, from prescription, to dispensing, to administration.

Costs of medication errors in the NHS

The review found an estimated cost of approximately £98.5 million per year due to medication errors, requiring extended hospital stays and contributing to the deaths of around 1700 patients.

Again, the majority of these incidents occurred in primary care.

A further comparison with comparable settings abroad found that similar levels of medication error occur in the US.

Government response

The Department for Health and Social Care has issued a statement regarding the relationship between 1 billion prescriptions and 1700 patient deaths and stated an intention to introduce changes to address these shocking statistics.

Their plans include the following:

  • Improved data collection
  • Decriminalising pharmacy errors
  • Introducing e-prescribing systems

Medication errors and medical negligence

An example we sometimes come across where the inappropriate prescription or maladministration of a medication can have appalling life-changing effects is in the administration of the drug, gentamicin.

Gentamicin, a powerful antibiotic, can cause deafness, balance problems and kidney failure.

Errors can occur in a number of areas with this antibiotic:

  • It may be an inappropriate choice for patients already suffering with kidney problems
  • The duration of the course of treatment may be excessive
  • The dosage may be excessive

Legal Advice

If you or a loved one have suffered significant long-term damage due to a medication error - be it the choice of drug or the administration of it - you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

Contact Glynns Solicitors to speak with an experienced medical negligence solicitor who will be happy to advise you.

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