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GPs' fatigue causing errors

Excessive GP workload and fragmentation of patient care are the key causes of medical errors in general practice, warns a new study.

Researchers found 'excessive demands' on time and workload were causing human errors, while fragmented patient care 'contributed to situation assessment and memory errors'.

The findings, published on the NHS Research Findings Register last week, also found substantial second-hand reporting of errors – 'an inherent problem of incident reporting systems'.

The University of Birmingham study, which analysed data from five practices in the West Midlands, received 94 error reports over 16 months.Of these, 46 per cent were situation errors, 24 per cent response execution errors, 15 per cent memory errors and 15 per cent perception errors.

Professor Saad Shakir, head of the drug safety research unit and a GP in Southampton, said medical errors were 'a serious problem', but that 'many are preventable by proper resourcing, training and auditing'.

Professor Shakir said tiredness caused by heavy workload was undoubtedly a factor.

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