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Laxative practice change advised

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Halthcare professionals are being urged to review their current practice for the administration and use of prescribed laxatives before bowel surgery or examination.

National Patient Safety Agency guidance has been issued to all NHS and independent healthcare organisations in England and Wales.

The NPSA received reports of 218 patient safety incidents and one death involving oral bowel cleansing solutions between November 2004 and last month. Of the 218 incidents, over 90% resulted in low or no harm yet almost one in ten caused moderate or severe harm.

Incidents included a patient being prescribed a cleansing solution despite having an ileostomy and a patient being under-prescribed a laxative before a colonoscopy, resulting in inadequate bowel preparation and surgery being delayed.

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