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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My letter to The Irish Times

The Irish Times - Monday, March 28, 2011

Health staff involved in up to 8,000 drug errors a year

HEALTH WORKERS are involved in up to 8,000 medication errors or near-misses in Irish hospitals each year, new figures indicate.
I just could not resist writing to the Geraldine Kennedy - editor to express my views.....

Madam, - As a Clinical Facilitator that is responsible for the career development of nurses, I read with great interest the article on 28th March dealing with data compiled by the State Claims Agency over a six year period. This indicated health workers are involved in up to 8,000 medication errors or near-misses per year in Irish hospitals of which over 7,000 are due to incorrect dosage.
When researching my thesis on medication management for my MBS in Health and Safety at Work, it became evident that medication errors are an international problem. For example in England, there were 70,036 medication reported errors in one year June 2009-2010 according to the NHS. It is not clear, what percentage of errors remain unreported.

Dealing with the underlying causes of error requires a concerted effort from every department in the hospital. However to concentrate on one area, a survey by the HSE in 2009 revealed that newly qualified nurses were concerned about their own skills with drug calculations. This is particularly relevant as single person administration is now very common for economic reasons. 

Medication administration is perhaps the highest risk activity a nurse can perform, as accidents can lead to devastating consequences for the patient and for the nurse's career.
There are many factors that can contribute to errors including heavy workload, distractions and interruptions.

As one approach to this, I have consulted with a developer friend to produce a simple application for mobile phones called “Dosage Calc”. This can double-check a wide range of common calculations giving the nurse some reassurance. I would welcome any input from those nurses in your readership during the pilot phase. The app is currently available as a free download from the Android market and will very shortly be available on iPhone and Blackberry.

Unlike some other countries, there is reluctance in Irish hospitals to allow the use of mobile devices among some staff. However it is worth mentioning that “Dosage Calc” and some other useful apps can be used in “Airplane mode” making interference with equipment very unlikely.

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