General Medical Council (GMC) Study Finds That 1 In 20 Prescription Items Contain Errors

Posted By admin - 4th July 2012

If you or anyone you know has ever been given the wrong medication by your pharmacist and suffered as a result of this, then please contact us Moosa-Duke Solicitors on 0800 952 0010 or 0116 220 6433.

This report was published earlier this year and outlined several recommendations to eradicate the faults.

There are 900 million items prescribed in England every year.  If 1 in 20 contain errors, this amounts to 45 million prescription errors.

The study examined 6,048 unique prescription items for 1,777 patients. They found that 1 in 20 prescription items contained either a prescribing or monitoring error, affecting 1 in 8 patients.

One of 550 items were classed within the severe category bracket whilst the majority were categorised as oversights rather than mistakes. Oversights included GP’s failing to write down how often the patient should take their pills or the correct dose. Severe errors usually involved the monitoring of patients, often elderly, taking the blood-thinning drug warfarin, and ensuring they are taking the right dose. If monitoring was supposed to take place outside of the GP surgery, at a specialist clinic, and patients did not turn up, the GP might not know.

This study was commissioned due to an earlier GMC study on prescriptions in hospitals, where they found an error rate of around 8% in hospitals.  The GP surgery error rate is lower, at 5% of items prescribed.

The MDDUS has dealt with a number of cases where doctors have faced fitness to practise proceedings regarding prescribing errors, many of which could have been easily avoided. In one case a doctor prescribed methotrexate daily instead of weekly to an arthritis patient who became seriously unwell and required hospital treatment.

Other complaints relate to drugs that require close monitoring such as anti-depressants being issued as repeat prescriptions without sufficient patient follow-up and monitoring.

“These errors could have been avoided if robust prescribing systems had been in place to monitor patients and ensure dosage information is accurate.”

In order to improve the safety of prescribing the Report recommends that:

  • Practioners utilise clinical computer systems for safe prescribing;
  • Increasing the prominence of safe prescription and the skills and attitudes needed for safe prescribing during GP training;
  • Promoting the reporting of adverse prescribing events (and near misses) through national reporting systems.

In addition, the study suggests that pharmacists can play a greater role in mitigating the occurrence of error, through reviewing patients with complex medicines regimens at a practice level, and in identifying and informing the GP of errors at the point of dispensing.