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Pharmacists encouraged to report prescribing errors

By Nigel Praities

Pharmacists will have a major role in policing the safety of GP prescribing and reporting those who persistently make errors, under proposals released today.

The action plan from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain aims to address the £750 million cost each year to the NHS from preventable harm from medicines, with pharmacists encouraged to speak up when something goes wrong.

The strategy calls for pharmacovigilance networks to be set up by hospital pharmacists to monitor the effects of new drugs, more research into drug safety and for the NHS to encourage a ‘safety culture' where pharmacists report errors in a non-putative environment.

‘Pharmacists must be able to speak up about their concerns and to report safety incidents and near misses in an environment where this is encouraged and where action is taken to learn and improve,' the report reads.

‘Not all organisations have a safety culture that is open and fair and pharmacists can find themselves in a very difficult position, particularly when reporting concerns about another clinician, for example picking up persistent prescribing errors by a well-respected local doctor.'

The report echoes a recent report from the influential All-Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group, which encouraged pharmacists to report GPs regularly prescribe off-label.

Professor Nick Barber, professor of the practice of pharmacy at the University of London and the report's lead author, said pharmacists should use their skills to work with other professions and improve patient safety.

‘This will help achieve the vision of making Britain a safer place to take medicines,' he said.

At the launch of the report, chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge, said the rate of medication related errors was ‘unacceptable' and said medicines use reviews were an important way of reducing mistakes.

‘Every day medicines use reviews are being done and these types of issues are being identified and communicated to GPs. They offer an immediate opportunity to liaise over these particular issues,' he explained.

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