Help get medicines right, patients urged

Behind the Headlines

Tuesday July 12 2011

Patients whose care switches between doctors, hospitals and other care providers run the risk of getting the wrong medicine or the wrong dose of medicine, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. The society has launched a campaign to get patients – as well as doctors and other health professionals – to keep better records of the drugs they are taking and make sure carers are aware of them.


What is the problem?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society warns that between 30% and 70% of patients have an error or unintended change to their medicines when their care is transferred from, say, a GP to a hospital or between hospitals.


Why is this a problem?

Getting the wrong medicine or the wrong dose of the right medicine can sometimes be harmful. The health regulator, the Care Quality Commission, says that about 4-5% of hospital admissions are due to avoidable mistakes with medicines. There are cases of people who have died as a result of being given the wrong doses of medicine after transferring between different care providers.


How can I, or my carer, make sure I get the right medication?

If you have any doubts about your medicines ask a doctor or other healthcare professional for help, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advises. If you do not understand what the doctor tells you, ask them to explain it more simply.


What can I do before I go into hospital?

Make sure you know what medicines you are taking and keep a complete, up-to-date list at home. You can list your medicines using this Royal Pharmaceutical Society medicines tracking form.

It’s also best to keep all medicines together in a safe place and make sure that you do not keep old out-of-date medicines.


How can I make sure that my medicines don’t change if I move between hospitals?

If you move from one place to another, make sure you take your list of medicines with you and if possible use a single container to keep all your packets or bottles of medicine together. In hospital, a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional should check your medicines within 24 hours of you arriving – ask someone for help if this doesn’t happen.


What happens when I leave hospital with new or different medicine?

Before you leave hospital, ask for your medicines to be explained to you, especially if there have been any changes to your medicine. You should ask for written or printed information so that you can remind yourself of the medicines or changes later.


Is there anything I should do after I have left hospital?

The next time you see your GP, check that they know about the changes to your medicines. You could also ask your local pharmacist for a “medicines use review” to help you better understand your medicines.

Edited by NHS Choices

Further reading

Royal Pharmaceutical Society: Poor medicines information transfer risks patient health, says Royal Pharmaceutical Society. July 12 2011

Royal Pharmaceutical Society: Help get the right medicines when you move care providers [includes medicines tracking form for patients] (Word, 1.02MB)

Royal Pharmaceutical Society: Keeping patients safe when they transfer between care providers [Part 1 - Guide for healthcare professionals] (PDF 0.6MB)

Royal Pharmaceutical Society: Keeping patients safe when they transfer between care providers [Part 2 - Guide for medical organisations] (PDF 0.6MB)


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Transfer of care: getting your medicines right

If you take any medicines, it’s important that everyone involved with your healthcare knows what you are taking. Wherever you go for treatment, if you are seeing your GP or going into hospital, take information about all your medicines with you.

Media last reviewed: 18/06/2015

Next review due: 18/06/2017

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