Drug errors cause appalling harm and deaths, says Hunt

Speaking at the Global Patient Safety summit in London today, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, will respond to the findings of a report that suggests 237 million medication errors occur in the NHS in England every year.

The report concludes that adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are estimated to cause more than 700 deaths a year, and are a contributory factor in between 1,700 and 22,000 deaths. The findings suggest that most errors with potential to cause harm happen in primary care (71%), which is where most medicines in the NHS are prescribed and dispensed.

The report reflects on 36 studies that detail medication error rates in primary care, care homes and secondary care. It was published by the Policy Research Unit in Economics Evaluation of Health and Care Interventions (EEPRU) and funded by the UK Department of Health Policy Research Programme.

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.’

Mr Hunt is likely to respond to the findings of the report by announcing reforms to NHS systems in order to better prevent and identify drug errors.

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