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Call for GP training on drug dosages

GPs should be given extra training in calculating drug dosages to combat frequent errors, concludes a large-scale study.

Researchers found GPs soon lost their ability to calculate doses accurately and needed refresher courses.

They also called for standardisation of ampoule labels, with doses expressed as mass concentration rather than ratios and percentage, after finding the variation only added to the confusion.

Nearly 3,000 doctors were assessed on their ability to calculate drug doses by the website doctors.net.uk – with only house officers performing worse than GPs.

Non-principal GPs had a z-value of -2.42, meaning their scores were 2.42 standard deviations lower than those in the comparison group of clinical assistants.

Principals achieved a -2.31 score, but registrars were the best performing GPs, with -1.22. Consultants had a -0.46 z-value, according to the study, published in February's International Journal of Clinical Practice.

Study author Dr Dan Wheeler, clinical lecturer in anaesthesia at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said: 'Recently qualified doctors and doctors working in the community struggled most with the calculations.

'GPs are unlikely to encounter the clinical scenarios presented or to need to administer adrenaline, lidocaine or atropine. Infrequent users of these drugs seem more likely to be confused by the way their strengths are expressed, reinforcing the argument for ampoule labels to be standardised to mass concentration.'

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