A NEW patient safety system has dramatically cut the number of harmful drug errors, following a trial which was run in a major hospital.
The system, which was tested in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, eliminated potentially "severely harmful" medication errors compared with an incidence of 6pc among patients receiving the standard model of care.
Medication errors linked to hospital stays include problems which can arise after the patient is sent home.
They include mistakes such as missing out on a tablet, adding a medication that should not be given, or giving the wrong dosage.
Under the ordinary system, hospital pharmacists are involved in taking a patient's medication history and reviewing their prescriptions, but are not involved when they are discharged.
Under the new system pharmacists are involved in both the patient's admission and discharge. It means they are able to track what medications the patient is taking coming into hospital, which tablets might interact with other medications and which ones they no longer need.
It also means hospital pharmacists can make sure the patients are on proper medication when they are discharged and that this information is given to their GP.
The findings of the study published in leading international journal, the 'British Medical Journal Quality and Safety', has shown this approach can significantly reduce and eliminate potentially harmful medication errors.
The study, which is the first of its kind in Ireland, was led by researchers from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with the Medical Directorate and the Pharmacy Department from Tallaght Hospital.
It resulted in a 78pc reduction in the number of patients experiencing medication errors at admission to hospital. And there was a 79pc drop in errors at discharge.
It improved the quality of prescribing in older patients by allowing for better communication about the patients' drugs, a particularly important factor given the increase in people taking five or more medicines at the same time.
Medication errors may affect how well the drug works for the patient, or could result in the patient needing to seek further medical care and a small proportion of errors have the potential to cause serious harm.
Dr Tamasine Grimes, lead author of the paper and Associate Professor at Trinity College, said: "Admission and discharge from hospital are vulnerable times for patient safety.
"A lot of complex information needs to be shared between healthcare providers and patients. The chance for miscommunication is high and sometimes this can result in error which may result in harm."