At a glance: Pharma officer’s report on medication safety

More advice from the Government? It’s a report from the Department of Health setting out ways of avoiding errors in the prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines.

That sounds like a clinical issue. Why should healthcare PROs be concerned?

Manufacturers need to be aware because the report ‘examines the causes and frequency of medication errors, highlights drugs and clinical settings that carry particular risk, and identifies models of good practice for health professionals’. Obviously it’s in the pharma industry’s interest to inform clinicians as comprehensively as possible on the uses of products.

So who will be responsible for good practice?

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) will be taking forward the recommendations. This is the special health authority, set up three years ago, charged with improving safety through analysing ‘near misses’ involving NHS patients. Medication errors have been an early priority for the NPSA and it has already looked at increasing safety with potassium injection and methotrexate tablets.

So there is scope for PROs?

Absolutely. NPSA chair Lord Philip Hunt has emphasised that he wants to work with the pharma industry, as well as other key stakeholders such as the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. The report also stresses the need for improved education of health professionals, which must be another possible area of influence for PROs.

Does the report highlight the main problems?

It says the causes of mistakes are complex, not least because human error is involved. But it sets out what it calls ‘error traps’ which need to be built in to all medication processes. GPs in England issue 660 million prescriptions a year, with an estimated 200 million prescriptions in hospitals.

Does this report form part of a wider initiative?

It’s the latest in the Building a Safer NHS series, instituted in 2001 by the chief medical officer.

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