One UK patient in six is affected by incorrect GP drug prescriptions each year, according to a General Medical Council review.
The most common type of error was incomplete information, followed by dosage errors and the timing of doses.
The GMC recommended that GP consultations be extended from 10 to 15 minutes, and called for improvements in checking and better use of IT.
The study examined 6,046 prescription items for 1,777 patients. It found that 1 in 20 were incorrectly prescribed or monitored, amounting to at least one error per year for 18% of patients.
Risk factors for prescription errors included age (over 65 or under 15) and multiple prescription items, as well as the following therapy areas: cardiovascular, infection, cancer, immunosuppression, musculoskeletal, eye, skin and ENT.
Only 4% of prescription items were associated with a ‘severe’ error, and it was noted that pharmacy staff would have corrected many of the minor errors.
The ‘severe’ errors included patients being given drugs they were allergic to, and poor monitoring of potentially dangerous drugs such as warfarin.
The report concluded that “prescribing errors in general practices are common, although severe errors are unusual.”
Katherine Murphy of the Patients’ Association commented: “It is deeply worrying that such dangerous mistakes are being made. Patient safety is paramount yet still these avoidable errors are slipping through the net.”