237 million medication errors occur every year in the NHS

 In Improving Compliance, Medicines Management Processes, Pharmacy Information

The Policy Research Unit in Economic Evaluation of Health and Care Interventions (EEPRU) has conducted a report on the ‘Prevalence and economic burden of medication errors in the NHS in England’, which was completed on 22 February 2018.

A medication error can have severe consequences depending on the scale of error and drug being administered, and they are entirely preventable. Medication errors can put patient safety in jeopardy and a priority should be placed on eradicating them.

Summary of the findings

The report summarises the following (taken directly from the summary page):

  • Errors were more likely in older people, or in the presence of co-morbidity and polypharmacy
  • The estimated cost of medication errors ranges from €67.93 per intercepted inhaler medication error to €6,927,078.96 for litigation claims associated with anaesthetic error
  • EEPRU estimate that 237 million medication errors occur in England per year, however, 72% of these cause little to no harm
  • EEPRU estimate that 66 million errors are potentially clinically significant. 71% of these are in primary care
  • The UK’s medication error rates are similar to the US and other EU countries who have comparable health services
  • EEPRU states that there is little evidence about how medication errors lead to patient harm, so have measured harm from adverse drug reactions (ADRs). The EEPRU suggests that ADRs (that are avoidable) will cost the NHS:
    – £98.5 million per year
    – 181,626 bed-days
    – 712 deaths
    – Contribution to 1,708 deaths
  • Half of all morbidities in primary care from ADRs are linked to gastrointestinal bleeds. The three most common medications to cause avoidable ADRs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anticoagulants and antiplatelets, with a third of admissions linked them

For the EEPRU’s full report, click here.

The importance of electronic prescribing

Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, is believed to be an important next step in combating the high levels of medication errors in our healthcare system. The Department of Health and Social Care believe “the rollout of electronic prescribing systems across more hospitals would reduce errors by 50%”, with only one-third of NHS hospitals currently having an effective system in place.

Ashtons e-Works

Ashtons is currently developing an e-prescribing system, known as e-Works, in conjunction with our clients, so it will be designed to meet your needs.

A fully functional e-prescribing system would be highly beneficial to any hospital who implements it. It will improve prescribing processes, administration of medicines, clinical & management oversight, presentation of data and the availability of clinical information. We have put together a comprehensive list of the benefits that an e-prescribing system would offer, and these include:

  • Negates handwriting issues
  • Provides a full correct audit trail through the medication process
  • Cross-checks current prescription with any allergies recorded
  • Medication due is presented in chronological order
  • Increased transparency
  • Greatly reduced likelihood of administration omissions or administration recording omissions
  • Allows automatic drug interaction checks and dose range check
  • Increased accessibility with remote access for manager and clinicians

How are Ashtons helping to reduce medication errors?

Ashtons is dedicated to improving patient safety in hospitals, by specifically targeting medicines management and regulatory compliance in healthcare settings.

Ashtons has been at the forefront of finding innovative ways to help our hospitals meet their quality objectives and improve medicines management. In 2014, we created a bespoke system which specifically targeted reducing medication errors in our hospitals. This system is known as Ashtons Live View, and it has become an integral part of our pharmacy service.

Live View allows information from the visiting pharmacists to be made immediately available online to relevant hospital staff. It also allows senior clinicians and managers to monitor this information for their hospital 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.

So, how has Ashtons Live View helped with reducing medication errors? As well as tracking the pharmacists’ clinical audits with medicines management standards and the hospital’s regulatory compliance, Live View provides detailed trend analysis, which facilitates quality improvement.

Ashtons Live View is a tool to improve quality and patient safety.

We recently undertook an analysis of how Live View affects the medication error rate in our hospitals from the first five visits to the 95th to 100th visit. We found the following:

  • Prescribing errors reduced by 59%
  • Administration errors reduced by 63%
  • Mental Health Act errors reduced by 51%
  • Patient detail errors reduced by 52%
  • Overall medication errors reduced by 56%

Ashtons continues to provide innovative medicines management solutions and can evidence the improvement in quality and safety.

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