NHS: 60,000 medication blunders in 18 months

Every year, 24 patients die as a result of being given the wrong drug or the wrong dose

Medication blunders by NHS staff are killing patients at a rate of two a month and costing the health service £775m a year, a watchdog has revealed.

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has found that thousands of patients are being given the wrong drugs, too little or too much of their prescribed medication or miss doses altogether.

The study found 60,000 "medication incidents" were reported by hospitals, GPs, pharmacists and community health centres over 18 months up to June 2006. Thirty-eight patients died as a result of these mistakes and a further 54 were dangerously harmed. Experts believe that fewer than one in 10 cases are reported, suggesting that there may have been as many as 708 deaths out of one million incidents.

These findings come a week after the NPSA Rapid Response Report which urged "extra care" when administering powerful drugs such as morphine, amid concerns incorrect dosing had caused several deaths since 2005.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action against Medical Accidents, an independent charity which offers legal advice for people affected by a medical accident, said the level of reporting from health professionals in primary care was "scandalously low".

He added: "Research tells us most incidents occur in primary care but these numbers show professionals in these trusts are failing to take this seriously. We are talking about basic, avoidable errors here. "

Patients with known drug allergies, particularly antibiotics, particularly suffer as a result of being given those or similar medications, says the report. Children under the age of five also suffer, accounting for a tenth of all victims in cases where the age was known.

Most incidents were caused by health workers giving the wrong medication to the wrong patient, the wrong dose or strength of drug being given out, or not given at all. Poor communication, failure to read notes and miscalculation of doses are all to blame, according to the NPSA.

The problem is hampered by poor reporting. Staff in care homes are unable to report errors under the present system, which means mistakes affecting the elderly, children and people with learning disabilities are not included.

Norman Lamb, Lib Dem health spokesman, said the failure by one in four NHS organisations to report any medication incidents, was "an admission of abject failure to do the job properly".

He said: "The problem is significantly worse than the bold figures suggests. What we desperately need is to understand why and learn lessons from these mistakes. The cost to the NHS is enormous but so are the human costs. The scale of the errors is frankly disturbing."

Thomas Garner, three, from Derbyshire, was prescribed a six-week course of antibiotics by his local hospital for recurrent tonsillitis. His mother, Tracey, was concerned because Thomas was told to take five spoonfuls of the drug trimethoprim everyday. Within a week Thomas became lethargic and pale. He had been prescribed 10 times the recommended dose and could have suffered potentially fatal kidney failure if he had completed the course. The hospital doctor had mistakenly prescribed him the dose for a different antibiotic.

The NPSA wants tougher guidelines and training for staff, documenting all patients' allergy status and an appeal to manufacturers not to produce drugs that look too similar.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Patient safety is of the highest priority for the Department and the NHS."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

    £55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

    BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

    £450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

    £55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

    Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

    £90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz