GPs make serious errors in millions of prescriptions

One prescription in 20 written by family doctors contains an error, according to a study published today.

Most mistakes were classed as mild or moderate, but around one in every 550 items was judged to contain a serious error, the research commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC) found.

With 900 million prescriptions issued annually across England, the figure suggests 45 million prescriptions would have errors, with 1.8 million classed as severe. The most common of the prescribing or monitoring errors were lack of information on dosage, prescribing an incorrect dosage, and failing to ensure patients were properly checked with blood tests. One in eight of all patients had a prescription item with an error – this rose to four in 10 patients aged over 75.

The researchers recommended a greater role for pharmacists in supporting GPs and better GP training.

Professor Sir Peter Rubin, chairman of the GMC, said: "GPs are typically very busy, so we have to ensure they can give prescribing the priority it needs."

A total of 1,777 patients were included in the study.

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