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.