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Prescribing errors prompt changes to GP training

Exclusive: A major GMC-commissioned report detailing a catalogue of prescribing errors in general practice is to prompt significant changes to GP training and development.

GPs could be expected to address learning needs on prescribing as part of appraisal and revalidation after a study author admitted it could be portrayed as ‘yet another terrible prescribing errors tale'.

The GMC received preliminary findings from the one-year PRACTICE study in September. The analysis of the nature and causes of prescribing errors in UK general practice found a lack of GP training in prescribing and monitoring contributed to errors in as many as one in 20 prescriptions.

It was finalised in December and the GMC is currently consulting with the RCGP and other bodies, with results to be announced at a major national conference in the spring.

But Pulse has learned the findings are considered so significant the RCGP is already drawing up plans to change the GP curriculum to refocus it on reducing the prescribing error rate.

Study leader Professor Tony Avery, professor of primary healthcare at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘The report could be seen as yet another terrible prescribing errors tale, but we've actually found out a bit more about how to prevent these.

‘We've been really impressed with GPs in terms of the level of responsibility they take on and are aware of the sheer pressure GPs are under that makes errors almost inevitable.

‘The GMC is particularly interested in the implications for GP education – and to some extent, continuing professional development.'

Professor Mike Pringle, RCGP revalidation lead, said: ‘The RCGP curriculum doesn't contain much about prescribing and we need to look at that.

‘Whenever errors occur in prescribing they should be seen as significant events and we should be using all these as a way of learning.'

Researchers at Imperial College London, University College London and the Universities of Nottingham, Hertfordshire and Reading used literature review, estimates of prevalence of prescribing errors, GP interviews and root-cause analyses to explore causes of errors.

A GMC spokesperson said the full report is due to be released in April or May, and added: ‘The report has not been finalised and we're not going to comment until it's published later this year.'