Prescribed medicine is the most common treatment in the NHS. GPs in England issue more than 660 million prescriptions every year and there are an estimated 200 million prescriptions in hospitals (Smith, 2004). Some adverse reactions are unpredictable and unavoidable, but medication errors, including mistakes or lapses, are always avoidable.
NHS organisations are required to report patient safety incidents to the National Reporting and Learning System.
The NRLS was established in late 2003 as a voluntary scheme for reporting patient safety incidents, and therefore it does not provide the definitive number of patient safety incidents occurring in the NHS. This information is used to improve the safety and quality of patient care through reporting, analysing and disseminating the lessons of adverse events and 'near misses' involving NHS patients. Information captured on the type of incident and the degree of harm enables the tracking of serious errors involving medicines.
Rates of medication error were re-calculated in April 2015 and the previous reporting periods are not shown here as they are incomparable.
For more information see National Reporting and Learning System.