National Voices responds to estimated scale of medication errors

Fri, 23 February 2018

National Voices responds to new estimates of the scale of medication errors in England.

New research commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care estimates that 237 million medication errors occur in the NHS in England every year.

Researchers from the Universities of York, Manchester and Sheffield found that errors were more likely to occur in older people and in patients with multiple conditions and using many medicines.

The team behind the research estimate that almost three in four medication errors are unlikely to result in harm to patients, but there is very little information on the harm that actually happens due to medication errors.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt will today (23 February 2018)  announce measures to curb medication errors, including new systems linking prescribing data in primary care to hospital admissions, and accelerating the introduction of electronic-prescribing systems across more NHS hospitals.

Commenting on the report, Andrew McCracken from National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, said:

It’s particularly worrying that errors were more likely to occur in older people and in patients with multiple conditions. We live in an ageing society and people with multiple long term conditions are the core customer of the NHS.

Many people receive treatment for their conditions in isolation. Clinicians should work together to agree courses of action with the individual, and anyone using multiple medicines should be offered a regular medicines review with a pharmacist.

The Secretary of State is right to focus on the flow of accurate information between health and care organisations. The accelerated roll out of electronic prescribing is welcome. Many patients would expect those systems to be in place already.

Commenting on the estimated number of medical errors, Andrew said:

This research tells us about the scale of medication errors but shows that little is known about the true impact of them. To create a safer NHS time and effort must be put into understanding the causes and impact of such a seemingly large number of errors.

For more information you can contact Andrew on 020 3176 0737 or