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As many as one in 10 of all hospital admissions are related to medications, according to stark figures from a new analysis of medical records.

Experts in drug safety branded the figures 'appalling' and blamed a breakdown in communication between GPs, hospitals and pharmacists.

GPs called for improved guidance on monitoring drug therapy and better communication across the NHS.

The new study, presented at a European conference on drug safety in Northern Ireland this week, found 101 of 1,039 hospital admissions were drug-related.

Acute drug reactions accounted for 4.2 per cent of all admissions, with anticoagulants, antibiotics and NSAIDs the main culprits.

Another 5.7 per cent of admissions were for deliberate self-poisoning, according to the study by researchers from Queen's University, Belfast, and Belfast City Hospital. In more than 80 per cent of these cases, prescription drugs were involved.

A second study examined in detail the causes of individual drug reactions and found 'multiple system barriers' were being overridden.

Researchers found drug alerts were ignored, patients were not properly monitored and GPs, hospitals and pharmacists did not communicate properly.

Rachel Howard, a research pharmacist at the Nottingham Primary Care Research Partnership who presented the study at the conference, said GPs were often unaware of the severity of adverse reactions because they did not see the most serious cases.

'There is a general lack of awareness of what damage is being done by medications,' she said.

Fellow researcher Professor Tony Avery, professor of primary health care at the University of Nottingham and a GP in the city, said: 'Patients on a whole host of things end up being admitted with the sort of problems that could have been picked up earlier.'

Professor Avery said hospital notes were often unclear and GPs lacked training in monitoring patients and identifying potential problems.

Professor Hugh McGavock, visiting professor of prescribing science at the University of Ulster, said: 'It's appalling.' He called for pharmacists to check on the safety of GP prescribing.

Expert advice on improving drug safety

·Make prescribing system warnings harder to override, including requirement to provide justifications for some overrides

·Improve communication between hospitals and GPs, and between GPs and pharmacists

·Increase pharmacy training for medical students and prospective GPs

·Provide clearer guidelines for GPs on the monitoring of drug therapy

By Daniel Cressey

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