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Safe staffing is key to reducing drug errors

23 Feb 2018

RCN responds to report on mistakes involving medication

Drugs being given

The RCN has reiterated its calls for safe staffing legislation as new research shows drug errors are contributing to as many as 22,000 people dying in England every year.

Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered an NHS crackdown on errors in dispensing medication and has proposed a range of measures to reduce what he says are “totally avoidable” mistakes.

These include the continued rollout of electronic prescribing, greater openness about mistakes and a change in the law so pharmacists are not prosecuted for owning up to genuine errors.

But RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies said the impact of short staffing and severe financial pressures should not be ignored.

“The report cites human error as one of the biggest risks. Electronic prescribing helps, but you need to look at the end-to-end process,” she stressed.

“Our members tell us they are rushed off their feet and are being moved from ward to ward because there aren’t enough staff.

“The high use of agency nurses brings an unintended risk too - fewer mistakes are made when patients are cared for by staff who work permanently at that hospital and know its patients, equipment and procedures.   

“The Government cannot go on ignoring the evidence. Only by setting safe and effective staffing levels in legislation, in every part of the UK, can we improve patient safety.”