Pharmacists are regularly correcting doctors’ mistakes with medicines, according to research.
Errors, which occur in around one in 10 hospital medication orders, are sometimes caused by what the report calls “a lack of safety culture” in the NHS.
The study, commissioned by the General Medical Council, found no evidence that junior doctors made more mistakes than doctors who had been in their jobs for a longer period.
Research involved 19 hospital trusts in North West England.
Over a seven day period, 124,260 medication orders were checked by pharmacists, who detected 11,077 errors.
A total of 50,016 orders were written by junior doctors in their first year after graduating, who made 4,190 mistakes (8.4 per cent error rate).
Another 34,781 orders were written by junior doctors in their second year, who made 3,568 mistakes (10.3 per cent error rate).
Registrars with three or more years hospital experience had an error rate of 8.3 per cent, while those at consultant level had an error rate of 5.9 per cent.
The study said: “A ‘safety culture’ was conspicuous by its absence from respondents’ discourses of their prescribing errors, the reported culture of their working environments and the reported actions of other doctors.
“Doctors relied heavily on pharmacists and nurses to identify and correct errors.”
The report said some of the junior doctors interviewed thought these “safety nets” were so efficient they did not need to worry too much about their errors reaching patients.
The GMC called for a standardised prescription chart - the type that sits at the end of a patient’s hospital bed - to be introduced across England to cut down the number of errors.
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