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Hospitals accused of 'conscious incompetence' after medication errors are revealed

By Alisdair Stirling

Exclusive: Mounting concern over poor quality hospital discharge data has been fuelled by a new GP study suggesting that more than half of patients discharged from hospital have incorrect medication.

Checks on hospital discharge medication by GPs in York showed that out of a total of 145 cases analysed, only 66 discharged patients (45.5%) had the correct medication while inaccuracies were present in 77 cases (54.5%).

The research, carried out by GPs at the Market Weighton Surgery also revealed numerous instances of poor patient understanding of the changes made to their medication.

The findings come after a number of calls from bodies such as the Care Quality Commission and NHS Alliance for an urgent improvement in the quality of discharge procedures at hospitals.

A recent NHS Alliance survey revealed that nine out of ten GPs felt clinical care had been compromised in the past three years because discharge information was late, incomplete, or both. This survey prompted GP calls for Government action to clamp down on inaccuracies in hospital discharge data.

Dr Clive Henderson, a GP in York who led the one year pilot study, called for a standardised template for discharge letters so that GPs would know where to look for the list of medication stopped or started while the patients was in hospital.

An interim report on the findings of the pilot - seen by Pulse - looked at lists of medications on patients' initial discharge letters were checked against the practice's repeat medication list. Where discrepancies were identified, patients were contacted to see if they knew why their medicines had been stopped started or changed.

The report said it was clear that a 'significant problem' existed. But while the study had prevented 77 medication discharge errors, the avoided morbidity, mortality or readmissions and the costs saved by the reduction in errors were difficult to quantify.

Dr Henderson said the number of errors was more than they had expected and urged other practices to start auditing the discharge procedures at their local hospital.

'Often there are two or things that patients were on when they went in, that they are no longer on.

'These often turned out to be just omissions when we thought they'd been stopped deliberately. There are sometimes typographical and dictation mistakes as well.

'There's a conscious incompetence going on which is now hard to ignore. But the pilot is supposed to prove that it is self-sustaining financially - or at least cost-neutral - but its going to be very hard to put a price on the benefits and prove it,' he said.

The study was funded by a mixture of PCT locality commissioning funds, pharmaceutical company support and a prescribing savings fund.

Hospitals accused of 'conscious incompetence' after prescribing errors are revealed

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