Written by

Bilal Qasim - Associate, Senior Solicitor

When a GP prescribes patients with certain medications, most patients will then go on to visit a pharmacy to collect their medication. On rare occasions, patients may be given the wrong medication due to pharmacy errors, also known as medication errors, these can have serious, long lasting consequences for patients. In this article, we will be discussing the statistics surrounding medication errors in the UK. 

 

Medication errors 

According to the NHS, “Medication errors are any Patient Safety Incidents (PSI) where there has been an error in the process of prescribing, preparing, dispensing, and administering, monitoring or providing advice on medicines.” Medication errors can happen in pharmacies and can potentially cause patients to have negative health implications. Some medication errors can be minor and cause no significant harm to patients, whereas severe medication errors can lead to adverse consequences for patients and potentially even death. Medication errors can include: 

  • Incorrect mixing of prescription medication 
  • Dispensing the wrong prescription 
  • Dispensing the wrong dose of medication 
  • Incorrect labelling of a prescription 
  • Vaccination error – where a vaccination has been given in the incorrect site of the arm 

According to BMJ, there are more than 237 million medication errors made every year in England and this costs the NHS upwards of £98 million and more than 1700 lives every year. The harm that is caused by medication errors has been recognised as a ‘global issue’ and the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to halve the level of avoidable harm that is associated with medication error. 

The NHS Patient Safety Strategy also has a focus on medication errors, this programme aims to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm by 50% by March 2024. 

 

Medication error statistics 

Between 1st April 2015 and 31st March 2020, NHS Resolution received 1420 claims relating to medical errors. Of those claims that were made, 487 claims were settled with damages paid, 438 claims were without merit and 495 claims remained open as of 2022. The total cost of the closed claims relating to medication errors was £19,324,495

Medication errors can occur at many stages during patient care, however medication errors usually occur during one or more of the following stages: 

  • Prescribing 
  • Dispensing 
  • Monitoring 
  • Transcribing 
  • Administering 

66% of the claims that were closed between 2015 and 2020 only concerned one stage of the medication error process, 28% concerned 2 stages and only 6% concerned 3 stages of the process. 

Out of the claims that only concerned one stage of the medication error process: 

  • 45% were administration errors 
  • 35% were prescribing errors 
  • 11% were monitoring errors 
  • 7% were dispensing errors 

Administration errors were the highest area that had claims closed and out of the administration error claims, the following were identified as to why there were errors: 

  • Wrong dose – 27% 
  • Wrong drug – 18% 
  • Wrong route – 15% 
  • Delay/ omission – 14% 
  • Contraindicated – 10% 
  • Wrong patient – 8% 
  • Poor technical skills – 8% 

 

Paediatric medication error statistics 

Between 1st April 2010 until 31st March 2020, there were 193 identified medication error claims received by NHS resolution concerning children under the age of 18. Out of these 193 claims, 91 were settled with damages paid, 61 of the claims were without merit and 41 remained open as of March 2023. The closed claims cost a total of £19,783,043, this amount included payments for claimant legal costs, NHS legal costs and damages. 

 

Medication errors where the recorded harm level was death 

Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, there were a total of 72 patient safety incidents reported to the NRLS (National Reporting and Learning System) that were categorised as ‘Medication incidents’ and where the outcome was reported as death by the original reporter. Out of these 72 incidents, the care setting of occurrence was: 

  • Acute/ general hospital – 53 incidents 
  • Ambulance service – 3 incidents 
  • Community nursing, medical and therapy service – 5 incidents 
  • General practice – 10 incidents 
  • Mental health service – 1 incident 

 

Pharmacy error claims 

Pharmacy errors occur when there is a mistake made when prescribing, dispensing or administering medication that lead to adverse consequences for the patient. If you believe that you have received adverse care and there has been a dispensing error and you have been given the wrong medication, you may be able to make a claim. 

At Patient Claim line, we work on a no win no fee basis, so contact us today to see if you could claim in relation to the pharmacy error that has occurred. One of our medical negligence experts will be able to review your case and guide you through the claims process so that you are able to receive the compensation that you are entitled to in relation to the harm that has been caused due to pharmacy errors.  

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