Prevalence and causes of prescribing errors in general practice
Research commissioned by the GMC on GP prescribing has found that about 1 in 20 items contains an error.
Most errors were classed as mild or moderate. But around one in 550 prescription items contained a serious mistake.
The research study examined 6,048 prescription items for 1,777 patients from a sample of GP practices in England. Led by researchers at the University of Nottingham’s medical school, it is the largest-scale study of its kind, and provides important insight on how errors can be reduced.
The researchers recommended:
- promoting the use of clinical computer systems for safe prescribing
- increasing the prominence given to therapeutic knowledge and the skills and attitudes needed for safe prescribing during GP training
- promoting the reporting of adverse prescribing events (and near misses) through national reporting systems.
The research also suggests pharmacists can play a greater role in mitigating the occurrence of error, through reviewing patients with complex medicines regimens at practice level and by identifying errors at the point of dispensing.
‘Few prescriptions were associated with significant risks to patients but it’s important that we do everything we can to avoid all errors,’ said Professor Tony Avery, Professor of Primary Health Care, University of Nottingham.
‘GPs must ensure they have ongoing training in prescribing, and practices should ensure they have safe and effective systems in place for repeat prescribing and monitoring. ‘I’d also encourage doctors to share their experiences of prescribing issues both informally within their practices, and also formally where appropriate through local or national reporting systems. Prescribing is a skill, and it is one that all doctors should take time to develop and keep up-to-date.’
Read the study report.