Greater Manchester, National

Preventing prescribing errors

Supporting pharmacists and GPs to identify patients at risk from their medications

In a recent large-scale study in English general practices, prescribing errors were identified in 5% of prescription items, with one in 550 items containing a severe (potentially life threatening) error.

This equates to approximately 1.8 million serious prescribing errors in English general practices each year.

Further studies have shown hazardous prescribing in general practices to contribute to around 1 in 25 hospital admissions, with annual hospital admission costs in England for adverse drug events of £650 million (at 2013 prices).

The World Health Organisation has set a ‘Medication Without Harm’ (2017) Global Patient Safety Challenge aiming to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm. The Francis Report stated that, ‘It is crucial that the patient is protected from avoidable harm’, and the Secretary of State for Health has set a goal of saving 6,000 lives in the NHS by reducing avoidable harm.

AHSNs are aiming to address this by supporting the roll out of pharmacist-led information technology based interventions for medicines optimisation in primary care. These tools can use software to run through patients’ electronic health records in general practices to identify patients potentially at risk of hazardous prescribing.

Once identified, the healthcare professional can open the medical record for an at-risk patients in their own electronic health record system to decide on a possible course of action.