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Causes of prescribing errors by foundation trainees in relation to their medical education

What were the key findings? 

The research checked 124,260 medication orders across 19 hospitals. Of these, 11,077 contained errors, an error rate of 8.9%. Of the total orders checked, 50,016 were written by Foundation Year 1 doctors, an error rate of 8.4%. Potentially lethal errors were found in fewer that 2% erroneous of prescriptions.

The report stressed that very few prescribing errors caused harm to patients because almost all were intercepted and corrected before reaching them. The intervention of nurses, senior doctors and, in particular, pharmacists was vital in picking up errors before impacting upon on patients.

Many of the recommendations supported developments in the 2009 edition of Tomorrow’s Doctors. However the recommendations and findings will also be of interest to managers within the NHS and other healthcare providers.

Why was the research commissioned?

We commissioned research to investigate the rates of prescribing errors in hospitals and what might cause them. The project specifically aimed to explore the types of errors made by foundation trainees in their first year of training in order to make evidence-based recommendations which may improve patient safety and define a future research agenda.

What was involved?

The methods of this investigation included systematic literature reviews, empirical evaluation of the prevalence and nature of prescribing errors made in hospitals, qualitative exploration of the causes of such errors by interviewing foundation year one doctors, and telephone interviews of leaders of undergraduate programmes.

Read full report 

An in depth investigation into causes of prescribing errors by foundation trainees in relation to their medical education. EQUIP study