Medication errors in mental health settings are being ‘massively under-reported’, experts have warned.
Between October 2007 and September 2008, the National Patient Safety Agency received 7,419 reports of medication errors involving mental health patients.
But with 2.5 million prescriptions issued every year, it is highly likely that many incidents involving medication are going unreported, delegates at the Patient Safety Congress in Birmingham heard last month.
‘Around 92% of patients in contact with mental health services are prescribed medication, and there is a lot of potential for error,’ said Ben Thomas, professional adviser for mental health and learning disability nursing at the Department of Health.
‘We know from research that medication errors are happening, but these reports are not being sent to the NPSA. Some NHS trusts report up to 500 incidents a year, but others don’t report any. Considering the number of patients on medication, I would be hard pressed to believe that a trust doesn’t have any incidents at all,’ he added.
Mr Thomas also called for more effective communication between primary and acute care in mental health to improve medication safety.
‘The more specialised areas we have in mental health, such as outreach teams and crisis teams, the more room there is for error in terms of communication,’ he said.