What you need to know before making a prescription error claim

Millions of prescriptions are administered in the UK every day. In most cases, the highly trained and professional people who administer these drugs ensure that everything is done correctly. Patients receive the correct drugs and are able to start or continue a course of required medication.

Errors do, however, happen. In fact, studies have found rates of 8.9 prescribing errors in acute hospitals per 100 medicine orders, and in 4.9% of all prescriptions across general practice. Considering the sheer number of prescriptions that are administered every year, this represents a huge amount of daily prescription errors.

Most errors have low to moderate consequences, some however can be serious and, in some cases, even fatal.

What kind of prescription errors are there?

Errors can occur in prescribing or dispensing medications. In both cases, if you’re suffering because of a prescription error it may be possible to claim compensation.

Dispensing errors can include:

  • Placing the wrong medication in the bag and handing it to the wrong patient.
  • Incorrectly labelling medication.
  • Dispensing the incorrect dosage of medication

Prescribing errors can include:

  • Prescribing a medicine that contains a substance to which the patient has an allergy.
  • Giving the patient the wrong dosage of medicine, potentially leading to an overdose.
  • Prescribing medicine that clashes with medication the patient is already taking.
  • Issuing repeat prescriptions for medicine without regular check-ups.

What are some of the potential effects of prescription error?

Prescription errors will, in most cases, not cause you any lasting damage in themselves. It will, however, mean that you are not receiving the correct medication to manage or cure your condition. The possible side effects of prescription error include allergic reactions, the worsening of existing conditions, to severe illness, hospitalisation and even death.

In the short-term, prescription error can lead to mild symptoms such as nausea or headaches. In more severe cases you may experience:

  • Seizures
  • Disability
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Liver damage

If you aren’t receiving the treatment you should be receiving for your original condition it could have serious consequences for your health.

Who is at fault for prescription error?

It can sometimes be difficult to ascertain who is directly responsible for prescription error.  If the error has occurred when the prescription is made, then liability for the error lies with the GP or medical professional who wrote the prescription. If, however, the error occurs when the prescription is being dispensed, liability lies with the dispensing pharmacist.

This is important for establishing who the claim should be brought against.

This distinction isn’t always straightforward. Pharmacists are trained to be able to identify anything on a prescription that looks unusual or out of the ordinary. They will then usually contact the medical professional who wrote the prescription to clarify anything of concern. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee outlines all of the prescription checking  procedures that pharmacists should take to ensure that it contains no noticeable errors and is completely valid.

This extra set of checks will usually result in simple corrections being made before the patient receives their prescription. However, as the pharmacist will not have as full an understanding of the patient’s condition as the medical professional, it’s not always possible for them to recognise every error.

In such an instance, the pharmacist would not be responsible for the prescribing error. Instead, liability would remain with the medical professional.

Other issues can arise because of ineligible writing, problems with GP computer systems, time pressures on the medical professionals, lack of sufficient training for GPs or pharmacists or failure to conduct routine checks on the patient to identify if any prescription changes are required.

Making a claim for prescription error

Making the decision to launch a claim because of a prescription error can be daunting, particularly if you’re still receiving treatment from the medical professional concerned. By law, doctors and other health professionals cannot treat you any differently because you’ve made a complaint or begun a claim against their practice.

If you suspect you’ve been on the receiving end of a prescription error, you should:

  • Immediately stop taking your medication
  • Get in touch with the prescribing GP or medical professional immediately.
  • Keep all the packaging to show the doctor and legal professionals.
  • Keep notes of how the medication affected you.

Contact a medical negligence specialist

While most prescription errors will not result in serious harm, they still represent a breach of care by the medical professional. When they do result in significant injury and complications for the patient, it’s important that those affected receive answers as well as proper compensation for what they’ve been through.

At Mark Reynolds Solicitors we’ve dealt with numerous prescription error claims, helping people gain redress for any suffering they have endured. If you believe you’ve been a victim of prescription error our professional and confidential team will be happy to advise you. Most medical negligence cases will be dealt with on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis, meaning that we will only take on your case if we believe there is a realistic chance of success.

Why not contact us today to find out more about how we can help?