Mistakes are being made in a high number of drug treatments given to children in hospital, experts warn. A snap-shot study by the University of London of five hospitals in the city found 13% of the 3,000 prescriptions they examined had an error. And a fifth of drugs given to children in these hospitals during 2004 and 2005 were administered incorrectly. Most errors were harmless but a small number were potentially fatal, Archives of Diseases in Childhood reports. On five occasions, one of the investigators intervened to prevent the patient suffering the consequences.
Over a period of two weeks, they watched how nurses gave drugs to children on 11 wards at the five hospitals. They picked up 429 administration errors among the 1,554 doses of medicine given to 265 children, giving an overall error rate of 19%. When pharmacists reviewed the drug charts of 444 children treated in the hospitals over the fortnight, they found and corrected errors in 13% of almost 3,000 prescriptions. The majority were incomplete prescriptions, but a third were dosing errors.
Although the study involved only five London hospitals, the authors believe the results would be similar in other UK hospitals. And despite the study being carried out five years ago, the researchers say the findings still stand today. Study author Professor Ian Wong, of The University of London, said: "It is highly unlikely that the situation has changed since our study was done. That is because prescribing for children is very difficult."