Jeremy Hunt: Drug errors that kill tens of thousands of patients a year must stop

Posted On: 
23rd February 2018

Jeremy Hunt has said mistakes made by medical staff when prescribing drugs to patients must stop as they are causing up to 22,300 unnecessary deaths a year.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will call for an end to drug errors at a speech in London today

According to a government study, NHS staff make 237m drug errors every year, costing up to £1.6bn and causing “appalling levels of harm and death” to patients.

In a speech today the Health Secretary will announce plans to tackle the problem, setting a five-year target to halve harm from drug mistakes.

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He will tell the Patient Safety Conference in London: “This new study shows medication error in the NHS and globally is a far bigger problem than generally recognised, causing appalling levels of harm and death that are totally preventable.”

Mr Hunt will call for an end to the use of handwritten prescriptions, which he identifies as a key source of the errors.

He will pledge a share of the £3.5bn infrastructure fund to pay for the switch to electronic prescriptions.  

“It can’t be right that hospitals are recording vital information like prescriptions using pen and paper, yet only one third of trusts use e-prescribing effectively, despite these systems halving the risk of error,” he will say.

Mr Hunt will also urge NHS staff to be more open in order to learn from their errors. 

“Part of the change needs to be cultural: moving from a blame culture to a learning culture so doctors and nurses are supported to be open about mistakes rather than covering them up for fear of losing their job."