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Jeremy Hunt announces scheme to tackle medication errors

Jeremy Hunt plans to launch a “new initiative focused on reducing prescribing and medication errors”, alongside England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge.

The secretary of state for health – who announced the initiative in a comment piece for the Health Service Journal  on Monday (September 4) – said the initiative will “look at a number of areas where we can do better”.

These will include electronic prescribing, understanding how best to educate and inform patients about their medicines, supporting seven-day clinical services in acute hospitals, working with care homes and GPs, and improving the transfer of medicines information when patients move between care settings, Mr Hunt said.

Mr Hunt plans to launch the initiative in the “next few months” alongside Dr Ridge.

“We have lots of debates about different aspects of patient safety since Mid Staffs... but one we have not talked about enough is medication error," Mr Hunt said, referring to the scandal uncovered at Stafford Hospital over poor care and high mortality rates from 2005-8.

The potential for medication errors in the NHS “is huge”, because “147 prescriptions are generated in primary care every second”, he added.

“The impact can be significant,” he said. “Between 5% and 8% of hospital admissions are medication-related.”

When asked by C+D, the Department of Health could not expand on the detail of Mr Hunt's plans.

GPhC welcomes initiative

In response to Mr Hunt’s comment piece, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive Duncan Rudkin said the regulator welcomes the initiative, and looks forward to learning more about the plans.

“Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians play a vital role not only in ensuring the safe supply of medicines, but also in working with patients, carers and other healthcare professionals to guard against a range of medication-related risks,” Mr Rudkin said.

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