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Doctors call for standardised NHS prescription system

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The prescription system in Scotland should be standardised to reduce errors and improve patient safety, and should then be rolled out across the NHS, a doctors’ group has said.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said charts used by health boards vary across Scotland, increasing the risk of mistakes by doctors moving between hospitals.

Where standards vary, the wrong medicine or dosage can be given, or the prescription can have an adverse reaction to other treatments.

The organisation is calling for a national prescribing chart similar to that introduced in Wales in 2004.

President Neil Dewhurst said: “Local variation in prescribing charts has existed for many years, but has not been addressed by successive governments and should now be given greater priority.

“Putting it simply, patients should expect a standardised system of prescribing regardless of which hospital in Scotland they are treated.”

Dr Dewhurst added: “Doctors also frequently move around the NHS within the four home countries of the UK.

“It would therefore be logical to follow Wales’s example by developing a national prescribing chart for Scotland initially and then to work towards a UK-wide prescribing chart for use across the whole of the NHS.”

The RCPE said the introduction of a standardised drug chart would also support the implementation of nationally agreed programmes. For example, a prominent reminder on the chart about screening for venous thromboembolism, the development of blood clots within veins, would ensure patients were checked regularly and received the appropriate treatment.

Around 25,000 deaths a year are attributed to VTE across the UK.

A Scottish government spokesman said “extensive systems” were in place to ensure patient safety.

“However, we are not complacent and we are always looking to improve further. The possibility of a standardised prescription form is under active consideration with our colleagues across the UK.”

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