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Most drug errors arise from mix-ups

The vast majority of medication errors in general practice occur when one drug or vaccine is mixed up with another, an analysis has revealed.

Two-thirds of all calls to an advice line run by the Medical Defence Union over a six-month period concerned incorrect drugs being prescribed or administered.

The MDU advised GPs to

consider storing medicines with similar names separately, to check all drugs before administration and have robust systems in place to review repeat prescriptions.

Dr Karen Roberts, clinical risk manager at the MDU, said: 'Medication errors are a constant theme in our risk management analyses of complaints reported in primary care. They are also one of the main reasons for settling claims on behalf of our GP members, accounting for a quarter of settled claims.

'Fortunately, medication errors seldom result in harm to the patient, but GPs need to know what to do if they occur.

'As well as explaining to the patient that a mistake has

been made and apologising, even if the patient isn't harmed, it is important to learn from these mistakes and put systems in place to try to avoid similar incidents happening in future.'

GP, nurse and practice manager members of the MDU reported 43 incidents involving medication over six months. In total, 28 cases related to incorrect drugs being prescribed or administered with the majority of wrong drug incidents involving vaccines given in error.

The study is reported in the latest edition of the MDU's GP registrar update.

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