Media coverage of medication errors

23 Feb 2018

NPA members will have seen media coverage today about new research into the extent of medication errors across the health system, including hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries and pharmacies.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, outlined steps the NHS is taking to reduce mistakes.

The National Pharmacy Association has appeared on TV and radio to explain the position in relation to community pharmacy.

Among the points we have been making are:

  • Avoiding patient harm is the first duty of every healthcare professional, and that is deeply ingrained in the mind of local pharmacists who between them dispense more than a billion prescription items every year.
  • It’s estimated that pharmacists query about 6.6m of the items sent to them for dispensing, helping resolve many incidents that might otherwise have resulted in serious harm.
  • This research is a reminder that all medicines have the power to harm as well as to heal, so naturally we welcome this renewed focus on reducing medication errors.
  • Measures that embed a culture of learning rather than blame in the health service are especially important, because this can have a long lasting benefit across the system and certainly saves lives.
  • There has been talk in parts of Government about allowing dispensing technicians to supervise the supply of prescription medicines. In the light of today’s report, Mr Hunt should rule this out.
  • Severe financial pressures brought about by government funding cuts in England have forced many pharmacies to reduce staffing levels – whilst the workload for pharmacies continues to increase in line with the growing health needs of our aging population. This is bound to make it harder to maintain high standards of patient care.