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More care needed over drug allergies

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has issued a new guideline on drug allergies after an audit of patient safety incidents found patients were frequently being given drugs they were known to be allergic to.

Each year around 62,000 people are admitted to hospital after experiencing a serious allergic reaction to a drug. Between 2005 and 2013 there were 18,079 of such incidents, which included 6 deaths, and 19 people who were severely harmed. An audit of these incidents found the majority occurred despite the patient’s allergy being known about.

The guideline outlines a structured approach to collecting information on new drug allergies.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: “About half a million people admitted into NHS hospitals each year will have a diagnosed drug allergy. If we know that giving someone a particular drug could cause them harm, or in the worst instances may even kill them, the utmost care must be taken to ensure they are not prescribed or administered that drug.

“This new guideline encourages all healthcare professionals to be alert to the possibility of drug allergies and offers best practice on clinical management to ensure every individual is spared from serious harm.”

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