Share your views on medication errors - Thyroid UK

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Share your views on medication errors

MargaretButlerThyroid UK

The Patients Association is engaging in the national policy debate on a number of health issues, and one of the areas we’d like to hear your views is on the challenge of medication errors in the UK.

Across the UK, an estimated 237 million medication errors occur every year, of which more than 66.2 million have the potential to cause moderate or severe harm to patients. Over 22,000 deaths per year are estimated to be linked to avoidable adverse drug reactions caused by medication errors, costing the NHS £1.6bn annually.

These are significant numbers with a substantial impact on patients each year. We would like to hear your thoughts on the implications of and potential solutions to medication and IV infusion medication errors.

Take part and give us your views by emailing

2 Replies

Thank you for highlighting this. I will be writing saying how my GP and Endo insist on just Thyroxine, even though this makes me ill. They can see I am better on my NDT but refuse to see what is in front of them. Maybe if a few of us did this, the message would get through?


Hi Margaret. This is also a big issue in the US- not only in hospitals but also at pharmacies. Patients should take a more active role in preventing their being a 'medication error victim". Some are harmless but some are not.

Even good pharmacists, doctors, and nurses get busy and preoccupied and patients can be the final backup check before swallowing a pill or accepting a prescription.

I recommend 3 things all patients do regarding their meds.Sometimes it's uncomfortable to doublecheck care givers but from my own experience I have benefitted both as a nurse and as a patient. More than once during my career I have dodged a bullet by listening to the patient when they look in their little plastic cup of meds brought in by the nurse and said'what's this pink pill? I never took that before?' and not accepted the answer "Your doctor ordered it."

1) Always check pills before swallowing when in the hospital. If you don't recognize any ask what they are for and why you are taking them. Also be aware of meds you usually take that are not there. If you are satisfied with the answers take them. If not refuse until you get an acceptable answer. It is your right to refuse meds no matter which side of the pond you live on. "Your doctor prescribed it"is not an acceptable answer.

2) This builds on #1, Better yet-and this is something I do. Don't take meds poured into the cup that have been removed from their peelpaks or labelled bottles before being brought to you. Tell your nurse you will only accept pills that are still packaged and labelled and opened in front pf you. As I try not to make extra work for the nurses, I inform them of this when I am admitted and remind each nurse at the start of their shift when they come in to introduce themselves after shift rounds that this is my policy. Often the hospital pharmacy may have only sent up one dose and they can't access another pill still in its wrapper right away. I am adamant about this as hospital doctors often make med changes that the patient doesn't find out about until receiving the pills. Your caregiver may be annoyed but they are not the ones with possible side effects from wrong drugs.

3} In the US once we accept and pay for a prescription and step away from the pharmacy counter the rx is ours and can't be returned if we later discover a problem. So take a few minutes and check your meds. Did you get the right amount, right dosage , right med? And right brand if that's important to you. And don't just rely on the papers listing the meds stapled to the bag. Open the bag and read the info on the bottles. If the pharmacist or techs are annoyed or busy so be it.

Medication errors in all care situations are too common these days. And don't forget the financial factor of having to pay for a replacement prescription with no refund for their mistake.

Hope this helps. irina

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