Nurse fear of being disciplined for making a drug error could be putting patients at risk of harm, a Nursing Times survey has found.
In an online survey of more than 1,900 nurses, 78 per cent said the fear of disciplinary action discourages nurses from reporting drug errors.
Forty three percent said they had witnessed an unreported error. More than a third said it was not reported because of the potential consequences for the person who made the error.
The results suggest concerns about punishment may be well founded. Almost one in five respondents said they had been disciplined for reporting a drug error. Seven out of ten fitness to practice cases that come before the Nursing and Midwifery Council are related to medication errors.
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams told Nursing Times something is “very wrong” in the culture of an organisation when nurses were scared to speak up. She said organisations “should not be routinely disciplining nurses” who make drug errors.
“If we want a culture that is open and honest and that encourages people to acknowledge when mistakes have occurred, there is little point in hauling [nurses] over the coals because this will just deter them from reporting the error.”
She added comprehensive reporting was important so employers could identify what were isolated errors and what were patterns that needed addressing.
Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust lead nurse in acute care Sarah Ingleby said senior nurses should not blame a nurse who makes a drug error.
“Senior nurses need to be picking up the themes of why an error occurred and identifying nurses’ needs,” she said. “They may need more training, or it could be because they were too rushed, or too short staffed.”
Care Quality Commission national clinical advisor Ann Close told Nursing Times not all investigations of drug errors resulted in disciplinary actionandt nurses should report all errors.
She said: “Reporting of drug errors, together with investigations of why they happened, is very important. We would encourage nurses to raises any issues around drug errors that they know off.”
The National Patient Safety Agency declined to comment.