Medication errors could contribute to as many as 22,300 deaths a year, according to a new report commissioned by the Government, published today (February 23).

It is believed that around 237 million drug errors happen each year. One-fifth of the mistakes take place in hospital, with the rest split between medication prescribed or dispensed in the community by GPs and pharmacists, and drugs handed out in care homes.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants greater openness from healthcare professionals about mistakes, so the NHS can learn from them. The Government is to launch a package of measures to reduce errors and improve patient safety including a central database of prescribing data and speeding up the roll-out of electronic prescribing systems between GPs and pharmacies.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, welcomed the move. “Pharmacy professionals play a key role in patient safety, including identifying and correcting errors as well as supporting patients to take their medication safely. [They] will play a critical role in delivering these new measures.”

Agreeing with Mr Hunt that it is vital to have a learning culture across healthcare, Mr Rudkin said the change in legislation in relation to inadvertent dispensing errors by pharmacists, which was highlighted by the Secretary of State, is an important and welcome step to support a learning culture in pharmacy.

“It will remove a barrier for those working in registered pharmacies to improve reporting and learning,” he said.



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