The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published draft guidance aimed at addressing confusion over the clinical management of people affected by drug allergy.
Almost one million patients admitted to NHS hospitals each year are allergic to a drug, with penicillin being most common.
However, around 80% of patient safety incidents involving a drug allergy occur in patients with a known drug allergy, according to NICE.
The institute warned that many of these known allergies were missed because staff failed to take note of clinical charts or allergy bracelets, or simply did not ask the patient about possible allergies.
“A fifth of patients with a known allergy will suffer serious harm”
The draft recommendations provide best practice advice for healthcare professionals at all levels on diagnosis, documentation and communication of drug allergy in adults, young people and children.
They highlight the importance of referring certain people labelled with a drug allergy to confirm or exclude their status and, if they have a confirmed drug allergy, to find out what alternative treatment can be taken safely.
Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: “Hospital admissions for drug allergies are increasing and unfortunately over a fifth of patients with a known allergy will suffer serious harm, or in a small number of cases may even die, because they were given that drug again.
“This draft guidance urges all healthcare professionals to be alert to the possibility of allergies when administering drugs and provides recommendations on how to properly take heed of them, so that people can be spared from further harm,” he said.
He added: “We now urge all registered stakeholders for this guidance to submit their comments on our draft recommendations.”
The public consultation on the draft guideline closes on 16 May. The final guideline is expected to be published in September.