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Healthcare Nurses say increases in NHS staff could prevent medication errors

MANY mistakes in the NHS could be prevented if staffing was increased, nurses said today after a study showed that more than 200 million medication errors are made every year.

The mistakes, which range from patients being given the wrong medication to prescriptions being delivered late, may cause around 1,700 deaths annually in England, researchers from the Universities of York, Manchester and Sheffield found.

According to the study, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, the errors could be costing the NHS £1.6 billion every year.

However, Royal College of Nursing head Janet Davies said: “Short staffing and severe financial pressures create an environment where it’s easier to make mistakes.

“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.”

In a speech to the World Patient Safety Summit in London, Jeremy Hunt suggested that doctors and nurses are too “terrified” of being struck off if they highlight mistakes.

Planned changes announced by Mr Hunt include the introduction of electronic prescribing systems across more NHS hospitals this year, which could cut errors by half.

Pharmacists will also be given new defences if they make accidental errors, rather than being prosecuted.

However Mr Hunt said nothing about tackling the huge NHS staffing shortfall.

  • In Scotland, the Labour Party is launching a consultation tomorrow seeking the views of health and social care workers and patients on the NHS staffing crisis and related issues.

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