Two million prescriptions a year contain 'doctor errors'

Around one in 20 prescriptions written by family doctors contains an error, a medical watchdog has warned. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Everyone knows you can never read your doctor's writing on a prescription.

But there are more important problems than hand-writing, according to a survey of GPs by the General Medical Council.

They found that 1 in 20 prescriptions contained errors and that one in 550 had "severe" errors.

Considering there are 900 million prescriptions a year in England, that's quite a lot of errors: about 2 million.

Most of the errors were about doses - either the wrong dose or the wrong timing for doses - or were "incomplete information."

The survey didn't look at what happened to patients who got prescriptions with mistakes so it's difficult to judge what"severe" means.

That was judged in the survey by independent experts.

The GMC says that hard-pressed GPs just don't have enough training and sometimes select the wrongdose from "pick lists" on their computer, or override warnings about potential interactions with other drugs.

They want better training and"closer" relations with pharmacists.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society's President, Martin Astbury, puts it more bluntly:

"We are calling for every GP Practice to have a pharmacist on the premises dedicated to patient safety."

Sounds like a good idea to me.