NHS drug mix-ups may cause more than 22,000 deaths a year, study finds.

1st March 2018

NHS drug mix-ups may cause more than 22,000 deaths a year, study finds.

The NHS makes hundreds of millions of drug prescribing errors and mix-ups which could contribute to more than 22,000 deaths a year, according to a major report commissioned by the Government.

While the potential risk to an individual can be low, it can also mean that medication meant for seriously ill patients in hospital is mixed up, with potentially lethal consequences.

Research carried out by the University of York found that GPs, pharmacists, hospitals and care homes may be making 237 million errors a year – affecting one in every six hospital patients.

Most errors did not result in any health problems but in around one in four cases, they could have caused harm, the report found.

Mistakes include giving the wrong prescription, issuing incorrect doses and delays in prescriptions being administered.

One of the most serious failings was patients being prescribed drugs by GPs which resulted in fatal gastrointestinal bleeding. NHS errors were most likely when patients were elderly and among those taking several types of medication.

In response to the report, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced new measures to improve patient safety.

Mr Hunt pledged a revolution in patient safety – and a shift away from a “cover-up culture”. He said the scale of the problem was “shocking” – and constituted “a far bigger problem” than had been realised, as he announced sweeping changes to improve the NHS’s safety record.

He announced reforms to NHS systems in order to better prevent and identify drug errors, including linking GP and hospital technology, and speeding up electronic prescribing, which has been shown to halve error rates.

Mr Hunt said there needed to be greater openness about mistakes, so the NHS can learn from them. A change in the law is being introduced that will mean pharmacists will not be prosecuted for owning up to genuine mistakes.

“Millions of us take different types of medicines to manage illness or ongoing conditions every day – which is perhaps why today’s figures are so startling,” he said.

“These are not just statistics – they are someone’s mum, child or partner suffering harm or tragedy when it didn’t need to happen.”

The findings come from a review ordered by the Health and Social Care Secretary, which was published recently. It suggests that the scale of the blunders is now costing the NHS £1.6bn a year.

How can Gotelee help?

Gotelee has represented a number of clients who have been affected by drug errors.

As patients, we place a great deal of trust in the medical professionals treating us – and if mistakes are made, we have the right to seek redress.

By making a claim, the compensation you could receive could help to deal with the consequences of an error, as well as helping to ensure that the same mistake isn’t repeated.

If you have suffered as a result of a drug blunder, medical accident, a surgical mistake, a doctor’s misdiagnosis, delay in treatment, or any other mistake in your treatment, Gotelee’s team of expert lawyers can give you advice on what to do and help you make a claim.

To find out more, visit us at any one of our offices in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Melton, Hadleigh or Woodbridge, or call us on 01473 298125.

Practice Areas
Medical Negligence
Chartered Legal Executive and Associate
Head of Marketing and Business Development
Chartered Legal Executive, Associate
Chartered Legal Executive, Associate
Blog Posts

A negligent GP? Who pays?


Many people naturally assume that if they take legal action against a negligent GP,…

Read More
Upcoming Events

The Great East Run


A Gotelee team will be running The Great East Run on Sunday 16th at…

Read More
News Posts

Knife crime – the law


It might help the current debate on the surge in knife crime to set…

Read More


"Approachable, very efficient, always willing to take my calls and update me."

- SH

"We were very pleased to have Jade as our solicitor, the service was excellent and we felt kept in the loop which minimised stress"

- CT

"I have used Tracey Laflin at Gotelee on a number of occasions and in my opinion, she is simply the most efficient conveyancing solicitor I have ever worked with. From the outset, she took the time to understand my specific business requirements and to date, she has exceeded all of my expectations."

- Dale Fiddy - Portobello Developments Ltd

"I don't think this house sale would have pulled together without Jo's determination and expertise. Excellent!"

- MT

"Jade Shelton was absolutely fantastic!! Professional and proactive at all times."

- JH

"This is by far the go-to firm for any issues. You are made to feel valued from the outset and they are so confident in what they do. Wouldn't recommend any other. Thank you Hugh and Max."

- Ros Jones

"Domini was very fast and efficient in carrying out her work for me - she was also very good at explaining things to me"


"Prompt, helpful, polite and very professional service"


"The ease that we could access and speak to Pat Smith - Thank you"


"We found Rachel Dawson outstanding, polite, professional and caring."


Please select preferred method of contact

* We will only contact you by telephone if you select this as primary form of contact. All web enquiries will be stored on our website for 30 days.