Community pharmacy patient safety errors increase by 64%

The National Pharmacy Association’s report says it is receiving more frequent calls about dispensing errors and patient safety, adding that these data reiterate the need for robust procedures for investigating potential problems.

Leyla Hannbeck, director of pharmacy at the NPA

Mistakes made by community pharmacists at work rocketed by 64% between April 2018 and June 2018 according to figures compiled by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

Data also show that in nearly half of cases (45%) the main reason for the error was put down to workload and time pressures. Workplace pressures were blamed in only 4% of cases in the previous quarter, the NPA found.

In its latest patient safety quarterly report, published on 15 August 2018, the NPA also revealed that the number of error reports it received almost doubled in June 2018 alone compared to the previous two months.

The report also highlighted dispensing errors and breaches of patient confidentiality following changes to data protection law and introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May 2018.

It said 8% of the incidents reported between April and June 2018 involved breaches of confidentiality.

Cases included handing out medication to the wrong patient because they had similar looking or sounding names; bagging up medication and attaching the repeat prescription slip to a bag meant for a different patient; and getting names and addresses mixed up on medicine labels.

Leyla Hannbeck, director of pharmacy at the NPA, wrote in a covering letter to the medication safety officer’s report: “It is important to reiterate that pharmacy teams are required to have robust procedures in place for investigating and reporting data breaches.”

She reminded pharmacists that under the GDPR, some data breaches require pharmacy contractors to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office — the government agency with responsibility for defending data protection in the public interest.

Commenting on the 64% rise in patient safety error reports, Hannbeck said: “We are getting more frequent calls at the NPA about dispensing errors/patient safety incidents. Sometimes pharmacists just want to seek our advice for reassurance/guidance and when we receive these types of queries, we always remind them to use our online platform to report.

“The implementation of GDPR which highlights issues around data breaches and associated fines could also be one of the main contributing factors for pharmacy contractors to report all types of incidents. Pharmacy teams also have more knowledge around GDPR through webinars, resources, workshops and this could have prompted more frequent use of our platform.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2018, Vol 301, No 7917;301(7917):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205334

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