At least 100 patients are dying or suffering serious harm each year after healthcare workers give them the wrong medication. The number of alerts relating to errors or “near-misses” in the supply or prescription of medicines has more than doubled in two years, the National Patient Safety Agency said.Source: The Times
More than 86,000 incidents regarding medication were reported in 2007, compared with 64,678 in 2006 and 36,335 in 2005. The figures, for England and Wales, show that in 96 per cent of cases the incidents caused “no or low harm”, but at least 100 were known to have resulted in serious harm or death.
Workload pressures, long hours, fatigue and reduced staff levels have contributed to errors, but the “serious consequences” of failing to administer, prescribe or dispense medicines correctly are still not well recognised in the NHS though they can be fatal, the report said.
The figures — based on voluntary reporting by hospitals, clinics and GPs — are thought to be a vast underestimate of the number of errors. Professor David Cousins, a senior pharmacist at the agency, said it was well known that only about 10 per cent of incidents were reported in most voluntary systems. This suggests that there were as many as 860,000 errors or near-misses involving medicines in 2007.