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The causes of prescribing errors in English general practices: a qualitative study

Slight, S. P., Howard, R., Ghaleb, M., Barber, N., Dean Franklin, B. and Avery, A. J. (2013) The causes of prescribing errors in English general practices: a qualitative study. British Journal of General Practice, 63 (615). e713-e720. ISSN 0960-1643

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3399/bjgp13X673739


Aim: To examine the causes of prescribing and monitoring errors in English general practices and provide recommendations for how they may be overcome. Design: Qualitative interview and focus group study with purposive sampling and thematic analysis informed by Reason’s accident causation model. Participants: General practice staff participated in a combination of semi-structured interviews (n=34) and six focus groups (n=46). Setting: Fifteen general practices across three primary care trusts in England. Results: We identified seven categories of high-level error-producing conditions: the prescriber, the patient, the team, the task, the working environment, the computer system, and the primary-secondary care interface. Each of these was further broken down to reveal various error-producing conditions. The prescriber’s therapeutic training, drug knowledge and experience, knowledge of the patient, perception of risk, and their physical and emotional health, were all identified as possible causes. The patient’s characteristics and the complexity of the individual clinical case were also found to have contributed to prescribing errors. The importance of feeling comfortable within the practice team was highlighted, as well as the safety of general practitioners (GPs) in signing prescriptions generated by nurses when they had not seen the patient for themselves. The working environment with its high workload, time pressures, and interruptions, and computer related issues associated with mis-selecting drugs from electronic pick-lists and overriding alerts, were all highlighted as possible causes of prescribing errors and often interconnected. Conclusion: This study has highlighted the complex underlying causes of prescribing and monitoring errors in general practices, several of which are amenable to intervention.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Pharmacy Practice Research Group
ID Code:33365
Publisher:Royal College of General Practitioners

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