Hospital trust blunders shock

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A HOSPITAL trust made 437 errors in giving patients medicines in just 12 months, new figures have revealed.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust says the errors are a small fraction of the estimated 12 million times that medicines are administered by staff at hospitals in Hartlepool, Stockton and through community services.

A health watchdog is demanding answers on the mistakes and said even the smallest mistake can be life threatening.

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The mistakes could have been made in either prescribing, packaging or administering medicines at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, the University Hospital of North Tees and through services within the community.

The errors were reported by staff at the trust via the Staff Incident Reporting System last year.

There were 97 incidents at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, 275 at the University Hospital of North Tees, 36 in relation to community services in the North Tees area, 24 linked to community services in Hartlepool, two in combines community services, one at NHS Tees (Commissioning) and two by community midwives.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s director of nursing, quality and patient safety, Sue Smith, said the figures show that there were 372 medication errors reported by hospital staff last year.

When considering that figure as a proportion of the estimated 12 million occasions patients were given medicine at the hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, it comes to 0.0031 per cent of occasions.

She added: “We have a culture of encouraging all staff to report medication errors and opportunities for error, however major or minor. The figures above show our staff are doing an excellent job and patient safety is paramount.

“The reason for encouraging reporting is not to look for blame; it is very much about understanding why these rare things happen, learning from them and putting in systems which will improve things in the future.

“One such system is the introduction of uninterrupted drug rounds. Our nurses are often asked for things when they are in the middle of taking the drugs trolley round the wards. They identified there would be even fewer errors if they could do this very important part of patient care without being interrupted.

“Every single member of our staff comes to work to do their very best for our patients, but they are only human and humans can make mistakes.

“This is the reason why we have checks and balances in place across the trust to improve patient safety and help to our staff in any situation, whether they are caring for patients in our hospitals or in the community.”

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny committee, said he plans to write to the trust demanding answers on how the mistakes were made and what has been done to stop any repeats.

He told the Mail: “It is very serious and I think even small margins of error need to be avoided.

“If people are given the wrong medication it can not only be life threatening, but you can have side effects and complications.

“I will be asking questions and I think it is important to see what’s done to address any errors. People need the confidence that the medication is correct and they are going to get the medication they should.”