Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are a leading cause of avoidable harm in healthcare and are the focus of this year’s World Patient Safety Day on 17 September 2022. This article highlights two written questions tabled in the House of Commons asking about medication safety issues in the UK and the Government’s responses.
Below are details of two written questions tabled by Feryal Clark MP, Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Patient Safety, concerning incidences of medication error and the World Health Organization's (WHO) Medication Without Harm initiative. Both questions were answered by Maria Caulfield MP, Minister for Primary Care and Patient Safety:
Medication errors in the NHS
Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many incidences of medication error have been reported since 2017.
Answer: From 2017 to 7 June 2022, 1,309,128 medication-related incidents have been reported to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS). Patient safety events which occur in healthcare, including incidences of medication error, are voluntarily reported by health and care staff through the NRLS and its successor, the national Learn from Patient Safety Events (LFPSE) service. The LFPSE service is also managed by NHS England and is currently being deployed.
Information is analysed to allow effective learning from events and advance patient safety. NHS England reviews emerging patient safety risks and can take action where it finds cases of preventable harm, such as issuing National Patient Safety Alerts to the health system through the Central Alerting System.
Implementation of the WHO Medication Without Harm initiative
Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of the progress that has been made towards the World Health Organization’s global initiative to reduce severe, avoidable medication-associated harm in all countries by 50 per cent by 2022.
Answer: The World Health Organization has recognised that no signatory of its third global challenge has identified a method for monitoring all severe avoidable medicines associated harm incidents over time. Research commissioned by the Department in 2018 estimated 237 million medication errors per year in England, of which 28% were potentially clinically significant. Further research supports the approach adopted in England of targeting national programmes and processes known to contribute to severe avoidable harm. This includes the implementation of Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration in acute hospitals.
Through the National Patient Safety Alerts system, NHS England monitors organisations’ declarations that specified risk management actions have been undertaken in response to alerts. NHS England routinely monitors medicines safety improvement activity, including the delivery of the community pharmacy Discharge Medicines Service, which can prevent up to 10% of hospital readmissions and structured medication reviews in general practice to reduce over and under-dosing of high-risk medication. While it is voluntary, reporting through the National Reporting and Learning System and its successor, the Learn from Patient Safety Events Service, has increased which provides data on such incidents and can identify learning and reduce risks.