Exploring the common prescribing errors that occur in the emergency department
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Exploring the common prescribing errors that occur in the emergency department

Johnathan George Advanced Nurse Practitioner, emergency unit, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cardiff, Wales

Why you should read this article
  • To be aware of the common types of prescribing errors that can occur in emergency departments (EDs)

  • To enhance your knowledge of the information required on prescribing forms for a medicine to be dispensed

  • To identify methods of reducing the rate of prescribing errors in the ED

Background Prescribing errors are a subset of medication errors that occur on the forms used to prescribe medicines for patients. On their discharge from the emergency department (ED), many patients are given a prescription form to obtain medicines from their local community pharmacist. On the identification of a prescribing error, the patient is sent back to the ED because the medicine cannot be dispensed.

Aim To identify the most common prescribing errors on prescriptions returned to one large inner-city ED in South Wales from community pharmacies.

Method Prescriptions that were returned to the ED over a six-week period from September and October 2016 were analysed to determine the types of prescribing errors that occurred and their frequency.

Results A total of 10,218 patients attended the ED over the six-week period, of which 7,731 patients were seen by a clinician and discharged home. Of these, 322 patients were discharged with a prescription, and 20 (6%) of these patients returned to the ED with a prescribing error that prevented the pharmacist from dispensing the medicines. The most common prescribing error was incorrect or missing prescriber information.

Conclusion This study identified that there was a low rate of prescribing errors in the ED, and this was comparable with the rate of prescribing errors identified in the literature. Common prescribing errors could be mitigated through the introduction of electronic prescribing in the ED.

Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2020.e1975

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

George J (2020) Exploring the common prescribing errors that occur in the emergency department. Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2020.e1975

Published online: 28 January 2020

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