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NHS drug errors 'may top 860,000'

The number of mistakes involving NHS patients being given the wrong medication may total 860,850, according to the National Patient Safety Agency.

It said that in 2005, 36,335 incidents were reported, rising to 64,678 in 2006 and 86,085 in 2007. But Professor David Cousins, a senior pharmacist at the NPSA, said only 10 per cent of incidents were actually reported.

According to reports, 100 of the incidents resulted in serious harm or death, although 96 per cent caused low or no harm.

NPSA chief executive Martin Fletcher said the apparent rise in the number of cases reflected a more open reporting culture and a willingness by NHS staff to report errors.

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: “We expect all NHS organisations to examine the NPSA’s recommendations carefully and where necessary take steps to implement them in order to ensure that the services they provide are as safe as possible.”

The figures relate to England and Wales and are taken from reports filed by NHS staff in hospital trusts, mental health trusts and in primary care.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Martin Fletcher is right. It is crucial that staff have sufficient faith in the reporting system, to know that they wil be treated fairly by it. They need to know that there will be a genuine effort to understand the root cause of medication errors, be it inadequate training, outdated delivery systems, flawed procedures and documentation. when staff see that these are being addressed, and have the knowledge that they have contributed to improvements through reporting incidents through feedback then reporting will increase.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Recently a consultant reported a simple mistake he had done, managed the patient very well, patient didn't come to any harm. Consultant was really devastated. He reported the incident honestly and guess what - he was disciplined and referred to the GMC!

    He has worked for 7 years as a consultant without any errors! He has now lost the passion, drive and enthusiasm for the NHS, patients and his job.

    So much for 'Fair and Open' culture!

    He needed help and support and not punishment.

    Of course, patient safety and their will being should be at the heart of our NHS but it is equally important that action taken are fair, proportionate and we need a learning culture and not a blame culture. We need 'Fair and Open culture' and not naming, shaming and blaming.

    Why would anyone report any mistake if they are disciplined even for single, simple mistakes?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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