One in 20 prescriptions contains an errorMajority not serious
Around one in 20 prescriptions written by family doctors contains an error of some sort, the General Medical Council said.
Most errors were classed as mild or moderate, but around one in every 550 prescription items was judged to contain a serious error, the study commissioned by the GMC found.
The study examined 6,048 unique prescription items for 1,777 patients from a sample of GP practices in England.
One in 20 prescription items contained either a prescribing or monitoring error, affecting one in eight patients.
The most common errors were missing information on doses, prescribing an incorrect dose, and failing to ensure that patients got the necessary monitoring through blood tests.
Professor Sir Peter Rubin, chair of the GMC, said: "GPs are typically very busy, so we have to ensure they can give prescribing the priority it needs. Using effective computer systems to ensure potential errors are flagged and patients are monitored correctly is a very important way to minimise errors.
"Doctors and patients could also benefit from greater involvement from pharmacists in supporting prescribing and monitoring.
"We will be leading discussions with relevant organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians and the Care Quality Commission, and the chief pharmacist in the Department of Health, to ensure that our findings are translated into actions that help protect patients."
Professor Tony Avery of the University of Nottingham’'s medical school, who led the research, said: "Few prescriptions were associated with significant risks to patients but it’s important that we do everything we can to avoid all errors.
"GPs must ensure they have ongoing training in prescribing, and practices should ensure they have safe and effective systems in place for repeat prescribing and monitoring.
"I'd also encourage doctors to share their experiences of prescribing issues both informally within their practices, and also formally where appropriate through local or national reporting systems.
"Prescribing is a skill, and it is one that all doctors should take time to develop and keep up-to-date."
The research recommended a greater role for pharmacists in supporting GPs, better use of computer systems and extra emphasis on prescribing in GP training to reduce prescription error rates.
This article was published on Wed 2 May 2012
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