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Your spotlight on local services

Hunt to crack down on NHS drug errors linked to up to 22,000 deaths


Health secretary says mistakes in dispensing medicines cause ‘totally avoidable harm and death’

Jeremy Hunt is ordering an NHS crackdown on errors in dispensing drugs to patients, which research shows could be contributing to as many as 22,000 people dying every year.

The health and social care secretary says mistakes involving medication, both in the NHS and globally, are “causing appalling levels of harm and death that are totally avoidable”.

In a speech on patient safety on Friday he will outline new measures to reduce errors that researchers from York, Manchester and Sheffield universities say cause 712 deaths a year in England and may be implicated in between 1,700 and 22,303 others.

Patients can suffer harm or die when they are given the wrong drug or the wrong dose, and also from their prescription taking an hour more to be dispensed than it should, they found.

About 270m drug errors happen every year, though three-quarters result in no harm to patients, according to the findings, which were commissioned by the government.

Under Hunt’s plans hospitals will be able to access prescribing data collected by an admitted patient’s GP to see if drugs they have been taking have led to them being admitted to hospital. Initially that will involve only patients being treated for gastro-intestinal bleeding, which can cause harm or death. Doctors will be able to check, for example, if a patient has been taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug but not been given another drug to reduce the chances of them suffering digestive bleeding. The system will be extended later to other conditions.  Read More