Research conducted by the universities of York, Sheffield and Manchester has highlighted that a mistake is made 237million times a year in the administration or prescription of medication.

The mistakes made in both the health and social care sector for the most part didn’t cause harm but in 28% of the mistakes moderate or severe harm was caused. The research also highlighted that medication errors could be a factor in more than 22k deaths per year.

In speaking to the BBC the Health and Social Care Secretary – Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that the problem was a serious one but that the UK performed in line with other countries and that he felt a culture of addressing mistakes and IT support would help to reduce the problem.

Dan Archer of Visiting Angels said, “It is unacceptable that anymore should suffer because of mistakes in routine medication. Our business trains caregivers in understanding medication and the importance of correct record keeping around medication.”

He also added, “We have created a culture in the organisation of recognising that human error can be a factor but ensuring total transparency and maintaining responsibility.”
Some feel that the culture of admitting to and learning from mistakes and IT system changes can dramatically reduce mistakes in medication. However, others in the health and social care sector point to a shortage of staff and time as being a far greater contributor.

Dan Archer says, “Our caregivers do not do visits which are shorter than 1 hour. While ever the social care system deems 15 min and 30 min visits as acceptable the pressure for too few, to do too much, in too short a time will lead to mistakes. Our organisation has taken a stand to say we need the time to care. The NHS and the majority of Care Home and Domiciliary Care providers do not work in this way.”

Royal College of Nursing CEO Janet Davies said that human error is “one of the biggest risks” and that overstretched nursing staff and agency workers put “added risk in” the system, but certainly did not make errors inevitable.