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Prescribing Errors

Prescribing Errors

A prescribing error is when a medical professional makes a mistake when prescribing medication. For example, a patient may be told to take the wrong dose, or be given a drug that does not agree when combined with their other medication, their lifestyle, or their current condition of health. This can be very dangerous, and has the potential to cause a patient serious harm.

Why Do Prescribing Errors Happen?

Studies have been done into why exactly prescribing errors occur. Unfortunately findings show there are many factors that can contribute towards healthcare staff making a mistake, from a heavy workload to a lack of training. These findings can be broken down into four main causes of error:-

1. Human Error: The Prescriber and the Pharmacist

Slips and lapses are a particularly common form of human error, and in the medical world these have the potential to turn into fundamental problems. A prescriber may have a slip of concentration that leads to an unconscious mistake, or a lapse in which they simply forget to complete a task (for example, a GP may neglect to add the prescription of a new medication to a patient's records). Such errors can arise for any number of reasons, from tiredness to a poorly organised work environment.

Additionally, medical staff may have a sub-standard knowledge of drugs. Thus an error can derive from nothing more than a GP failing to have a sound understanding of different medications and their risks.

2. Lack of Communication Between Medical Professionals

Good communication between hospital and primary care staff (such as GPs) is an essential element in patient safety. A study by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that up to 24% of patients are referred to hospital without information on their other illnesses. This means that hospital staff begin treatment unaware of a patient's medication intake, which could have a drastic impact on their condition.

Similarly, there is often a breakdown in communication when a patient is discharged from hospital. The information a GP receives from the hospital regarding their patient may be wrong, incomplete, or so delayed that it is no longer useful. Once again organisational factors may be to blame, as can a low-perceived importance of prescribing or a hierarchical medical team.

3. Medication That Needs Monitoring

Worryingly, one study showed that errors in medication monitoring accounted for one-quarter of preventable drug-related hospital admissions. This is the consequence of a failure to monitor patients deemed to be taking hazardous medication. Any harmful side-effects are therefore not noticed and addressed until a patient becomes increasingly unwell.

4. Repeat Prescriptions

Repeat prescriptions needs to be regularly reviewed to ensure a patient is still receiving the correct dose and the right sort of medication. It is possible that a patient's health has altered since the prescription was made, meaning the medication they are getting is no longer appropriate. A qualified medical practitioner should take steps to assess a patient's prescription, and cross-reference this with their condition of health, changes to their lifestyle, as well as any other drugs they are taking.

Prescribing Errors and Medical Negligence

Prescribing errors can be attributed to a number of causes, many of which are the result of negligence on the part of a medical professional. If you have been affected by a prescribing error, you should contact a medical negligence solicitor to discuss your options. You may be able to make a claim relating to the pain and suffering you have experienced as a consequence of a medical professional's mistake.

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