On the Agenda - Chart could stop prescribing errors

In a nutshell The number of prescribing errors in hospitals could be reduced if a standardised prescription chart were introduced in all UK hospitals, according to research commissioned by the General Medical Council and published on 3 December.

Prescribing: report reveals errors
Prescribing: report reveals errors

What is the reason for the errors?

The causes of the errors, such as miscalculating the dose, include straightforward human or communication problems that happen in stressful working environments. Some are the result of the system, including complex or unfamiliar prescribing charts.

How big a problem is it?

The report stressed few prescribing errors caused harm to patients because almost all were intercepted and corrected by nurses, senior doctors and, in particular, pharmacists. The study concluded that better medical education was only one area that could contribute to safer prescribing.

PR support

The story was supported by the GMC's internal press office, which held a Q&A format press briefing at the Science Media Centre and issued an embargoed press release to all national health correspondents and news planners last Wednesday. The release also went to national, devolved and regional contacts and some medical trade titles, as well as key GMC stakeholders.

Press coverage

Guardian columnist Ann Robinson discussed the story last Thursday, saying: 'Getting drugs right in hospital is a minefield.' The BBC also ran the story on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 4 and its Health website.

8.9% of 124,260 prescriptions checked had errors

2% were found to contain lethal errors

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