It was shocking to learn that hundreds of patients in East Yorkshire have been receiving the wrong drugs or doses of medication, with a lack of training and nurses failing to follow national procedures highlighted as potential causes.
The recent report in the Hull Daily Mail suggested that medication errors made this year had caused harm to 151 patients, whilst 18 errors resulted in severe harm or death at the Humber NHS Foundation Trust.
A further 846 incidents involving medication errors were said to have caused no harm to patients at all, and were classed as ‘near misses’.
There have certainly been some mixed messages coming from the Trust as to the reasons why this is happening, with one board member claiming it was not just a local problem, and was due to a ‘lack of training of nurses at a national level’.
However, a report presented to the board said nurses locally were also failing to follow national procedures on safe and secure handling of medication.
Measures to improve care and reduce medication mistakes welcomed
Whatever the cause, change is certainly needed, and we welcome the moves being put in place by the Trust to tackle the issue and better protect patients.
In our work at Hudgell Solicitors, we have handled many cases of medical negligence where mistakes with medication have led to worsening illnesses and even the loss of life. It is an unacceptable and inexcusable error.
We are told nurses are now to undergo “competency based training”, with reviews held throughout the year to update teams on changes, to consider problems and make necessary changes to prevent further mistakes.
Each nursing team is also to include a nurse assessor who will have passed a medication assessment and will monitor each member of their team to ensure they are following The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines and the code of practice by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
These are positive steps, as the lack of continual training and learning is a major concern in many areas across the NHS. Training, and learning from mistakes, is an area we firmly believe is all too often overlooked.
We have seen cases where nurses and medical staff have not been updated in new practices or procedures. It is very rare that the problem or error is caused by a person, it is far more often the process which fails the patient.
The Humber NHS Foundation Trust is to be applauded for tackling this problem, and with all the measures put in place we hope it will result in a big fall in the number of incidents over the coming 12 months.
Anything less will not be acceptable as it will mean lives are continuing to be put at risk through the most basic of medical errors.