Four in ten hospital patients are being administered drugs incorrectly according to a study published today by the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

The study was made to describe the methods used by nurses when administering oral medicines to patients with and without dysphagia (difficulties swallowing), to quantify the medicine administration error rate.

It found that of the 2,129 medicine administrations observed, 817 involved an error, and of these 313 involved patients with dysphagia. The most frequent errors recorded were medicines being administered after the time prescribed by doctors, often because pills needed to be crushed to make intake easier for patients with difficulty swallowing and so required hands-on assistance from a care worker.

The report recommends that for patients with difficulty swallowing "healthcare professionals to take extra care when prescribing, dispensing and administering medicines". This information is crucial with regard to older patients as the report points out that while elderly people compose 20 per cent of the population, they take 50 per cent of prescribed medicines.