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237 million drug errors made in UK each year

Wednesday 7th March 2018
Millions of potentially life-threatening drug errors are made in the UK each year, according to new figures. Image: Rawpixel via iStock
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Around 237 million drug prescription errors are made in the UK each year, new figures reveal.

An investigation has been carried out by researchers from the universities of Manchester, York and Sheffield into the extent of doctors' and pharmacists' mistakes, finding that 700 deaths are caused by drug errors in Britain each year.

What's more, it is believed that mistakes with prescriptions and dosages may be a factor in between 1,700 and 22,300 other fatalities on an annual basis.

Overall, more than one-quarter (28 per cent) of the errors made have the potential to cause moderate to severe harm to patients' health, indicating that significant improvements need to be made when it comes to prescribing medication.

Currently, one-fifth of drug prescription errors stem from hospital care, with this category including incidents relating to the administration of anaesthetics prior to surgery.

The remainder arise from mistakes made by GPs and pharmacists or in care homes and could include patients being given the wrong dosage or someone else's medication altogether, which could put their health at serious risk.

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt commented on these findings, stating: "It is a far bigger problem than generally recognised, causing appalling levels of harm and death that are totally preventable."

However, he acknowledged that these problems aren't just confined to the NHS and the UK, but that potentially harmful prescription errors are made all over the world.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, also responded to the research, calling on the government to provide more funding to the NHS so that there is less of a chance of such mistakes being made in the future.

"There are real problems in preserving patient safety when you haven't got enough staff and when we've got the financial pressures we have," she stated.

Written by James Puckle

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