More than 200 million medication errors occur in NHS per year, say researchers

February 23, 2018 by Michael Addelman, University of Manchester
Credit: University of Manchester

A study has revealed an estimated 237 million medication errors occur in the NHS in England every year, and avoidable adverse drug reactions (ADRs) cause hundreds of deaths.

Researchers from the Universities of York, Manchester and Sheffield report that an estimated 712 deaths result from avoidable ADRs. They say, however, that ADRs could be a contributory factor to between 1,700 and 22,303 deaths a year.

Of the total estimated 237 million that occur, the researchers found that almost three in four are unlikely to result in harm to , but there is very little information on the harm that actually happens due to medication errors.

This led researchers to review studies related to the harm caused to patients from ADRs. As well as the number of deaths reported, they also showed that avoidable ADRs had significant cost implications, at £98.5 million per year, but this could be significantly higher.

The economic impact of medication errors varied widely, from £60 per error for inhaler medication, for example, to more than £6 million in litigation claims associated with anaesthetic errors.

The team is calling for more work to be done on finding cost-effective ways of preventing medication errors and their potential harm to patients.

The report, which reflects on 36 studies that details medication error rates in , care homes and secondary care, showed that the most errors with potential to cause harm happen in primary care (71%), which is where most medicines in the NHS are prescribed and dispensed.

Errors were more likely to occur in older people and in patients with multiple conditions and using many medicines.

Professor of Health Economics at the University of York, Mark Sculpher, said: "Although these error rates may look high, there is no evidence suggesting they differ markedly from those in other high-income countries.

"Almost three in four errors would never harm patients and some may be picked up before they reach the patients, but more research is needed to understand just how many that is."

Rachel Elliott, Professor of Health Economics from The University of Manchester said "The NHS is a world-leader in this area of research, and this is why we have a good idea about error rates. There is still a lot to do in finding cost-effective ways to prevent medication errors.

"What this report is showing us is that we need better linking of information across the NHS to help find more ways of preventing medication errors."

Fiona Campbell, Research Fellow from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research, said: "Measuring harm to patients from errors is difficult for several reasons, one being that harm can sometimes occur when medicines are used correctly, but now that we have more understanding of the number of errors that occur we have an opportunity to do more to improve NHS systems."

Explore further: What impact do medication errors have on nursing home residents?

More information: The study is available online: www.eepru.org.uk/prevalence-an … he-nhs-in-england-2/

Related Stories

What impact do medication errors have on nursing home residents?

November 21, 2016
A new analysis points to surprisingly low rates of serious impacts from medication errors affecting nursing home residents, despite the fact that these errors remain fairly common. The investigators noted that it's unclear ...

Palliative care study highlights need for more vigilance

January 8, 2018
An Australian review of palliative care services has revealed the impact of opioid medication errors on patients in the final weeks of their lives.

TB therapy-linked medication errors occur frequently

January 20, 2016
(HealthDay)—Medication errors associated with antituberculosis therapy occur frequently in an inpatient setting, according to a study published online Jan. 13 in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics.

Med errors common among pediatric cancer outpatients

April 29, 2013
(HealthDay)—Among pediatric cancer patients who receive medications at home, errors are common, with a rate of 3.6 errors with injury per 100 patients, according to a study published online April 29 in Pediatrics.

Research shows medication errors common on admission to mental health units

November 15, 2013
Research published today in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy shows that medication errors occurred in 212 of 377 of patients (56.2 per cent) admitted to the assessment ward, between March to June 2012.

Medication error reporting not indicative of patient safety

March 23, 2015
A comparative study at two Australian hospitals suggests that hospitals' incident data have significant shortcomings, especially as the basis for monitoring safety over time and between sites.

Recommended for you

It's not just for kids—even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

September 21, 2018
Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it's not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z's.

Most nations falling short of UN targets to cut premature deaths from chronic diseases

September 21, 2018
People in the UK, US and China have a higher risk of dying early from conditions like cancer, heart disease and stroke than people in Italy, France, South Korea and Australia.

Patient-centered visual aid helps physicians discuss risks, treatments with parents

September 21, 2018
A series of illustrations and charts designed as decision aids for parents of children with minor head injuries helped them communicate with emergency medicine physicians and make informed decisions about their child's care, ...

Alcohol responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

September 21, 2018
Alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year—more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organization said Friday, adding that men are particularly at risk.

Smart pills dumb down medical care, experts warn

September 21, 2018
Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics that cautions health care ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.