Research at the University of York has discovered that an estimated 237 million medication errors occur in the NHS per year.
Analysis from York alongside researchers at Manchester and Sheffield has reported that an estimated 712 deaths result from avoidable adverse drug reactions (ADRs) The research concludes that ADRs may be causing 1700 to 22 303 deaths per year.
In addition to the number of deaths which were reported, ADRs also burden the NHS economically. £98.5m per year is spent on ADRs. However, according to research this cost could be higher. This research also discovered that costs of medical errors can vary widely from £60 per error for inhaler medication to more than £6m in litigation claims associated with anaesthetic errors.
The report produced at York used evidence from 36 studies which detail medication error rates in a variety of areas such as primary care, care homes and secondary care. Primary care was reported as the area at greatest risk with 71 per cent of errors holding the potential to cause harm. Errors also discovered to be more likely to occur in the elderly, in patients with multiple conditions, and in patients using many medicines.
Professor of Health Economics at the University of York, Mark Sculpher commented: “Although these error rates may look high, there is no evidence suggesting they differ markedly from those in other high-income countries.
“Almost three in four errors would never harm patients and some may be picked up before they reach the patients, but more research is needed to understand just how many that is.”
The report, funded by the UK Department of Health Policy Research Programme, will be unveiled at the World Patient Safety Science and Technology Summit and is published by the Policy Research Unit in Economics Evaluation of Health and Care Interventions (EEPRU). This team is now calling for more work to be done on finding cost-effective ways of preventing medication errors and how their potential harm to patients can be reduced.