Headlines: January 19th, 2010

Mistakes are being made in drug treatments given to a large number of children in hospital, according to a report today. It says the errors arise either when drugs are prescribed or when they are given to patients and while most of the mistakes were unlikely to cause serious harm, a small number were potentially fatal.

In the report, released today by the BMJ before it is printed in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, the authors call for more effective strategies to cut the number of errors.

Dr Maisoon Ghaleb from the Department of Practice and Policy in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Hertfordshire, and Professor Ian Wong, from the Centre for Paediatric Pharmacy Research, in the School of Pharmacy at the University of London and Institute of Child Health say the study involved only five hospitals in London but point out that it includes different types of hospital and ward. “The results are therefore likely to be generalisable to other UK clinical environments,” they say.

During the study pharmacists reviewed almost 3,000 prescriptions and found 391 errors, an overall rate of 13.2 per cent but ranging from 5 to 31.5 per cent depending on the ward. An incomplete prescription was the most common mistake. The 429 administration errors equated to an overall error rate of one in four and ranging from almost one in 10 to almost one in three depending on the ward. Mistakes in drug preparation were the most common, followed by an incorrect rate of intravenous administration.