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GPs prescription 'errors' highlighted

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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A recent General Medical Council (GMC) report has revealed that GPs are making too many errors when prescribing medication to patients. Estimates have suggested that the numbers involved could be as high as 1 error in every 6 patients receiving prescription medication.

The most common errors involved included incomplete information on the prescription, problems with, and timings of, doses. More serious errors included patients being prescribed medication which they were allergic to and failures to review and manage potentially dangerous drugs, such as Warfarin, used to thin the blood.

But the report said many mistakes were only minor and some would have been corrected by the pharmacist before the patients were actually given the drugs.

The report, based on 1,200 patients, found that in total, 18% of those patients had experienced a mistake with at least one of their prescriptions over the year. The report highlighted that errors were most common in the elderly, where the figure increased to 38% and also in patients under the age of 14.  Fortunately, only 4% of cases were classed as ‘severe’.

The authors of the report have called for better training of GPs and more checks on the practices involved when prescribing medication.

The GMC, who are responsible for regulating the medical profession, believe extending the length of the average GP consultation from 10 to 15 minutes could be a step in the right direction to combating this problem.

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has insisted that the Government is working with GPs to improve practices and that the majority of errors in prescriptions are picked up by pharmacists before the patient is put at risk. However Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association insists that there are still a number of avoidable errors that slip through the net, putting the health of patients at serious risk.

By clinical negligence expert, Paul Burrows