Directors of nursing should give medicines management the same priority as infection prevention and control to help reduce drug errors, Nursing Times has been told.
Matt Griffiths, senior nurse for medicines management at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, said a cultural change around medication administration was needed and should “come from nurses”.
“There have been major initiatives around dignity, nutrition, child protection and infection prevention. But there are over 100 patient deaths a year from medication-related incidents which nobody is highlighting,” he said.
Latest figures from the National Patient Safety Agency show that between 1 April and 30 September 2009 frontline staff reported 50,950 medication-related incidents.
According to our survey, nurses were most likely to make a drug error when they were interrupted.
Mirroring that, the vast majority - 79 per cent - said protected time for drug rounds would reduce the likelihood of errors being made, and almost half said wearing a tabard during drug rounds to remind people not to interrupt would also help.
A 2008 study of three wards at NHS Grampian in Scotland showed tabards can lead to a modest reduction in the number of interruptions during a drug round.
The 369 drug rounds studied before the tabard was introduced had 2,323 interruptions, averaging six per drug round. Following the introduction of the tabard, 1,172 interruptions occurred in 233 drug rounds, an average of five interruptions per round.
NHS Grampian clinical effectiveness facilitator Jude Scott, who carried out the research, said the tabard acted as an “empowerment tool” for nurses to be left alone during a drug round.
But she added too many interruptions still occurred because other staff, patients and relatives did not understand the significance of the tabard. “To have more success, people need to be made aware of what the tabard is about. It needs a good publicity drive, such as patient leaflets, ward posters and even the local press,” she said.
Mr Griffiths said awareness raising campaigns to improve safety in medication administration should be put on a par with the infection prevention and control hand hygiene campaign.
“Medication management needs to be on a plateau with infection prevention. This is an area that we need to put money into because in terms of patient safety it is just as important,” he said.
Nursing Times practice content
Registering for free on nursingtimes.net gives you access to thousands of peer-reviewed articles that will help you improve your nursing practice.
After you register, you’ll have access to our practice archive, including all-time favourites such as:
Should tabards always be worn during drug rounds?