NEW GUIDANCE: Medicines information guidance to improve safety across health and care

We’ve now published new guidance to enable the digital sharing of medications information between care settings, which will help improve patient care and reduce medication errors across the NHS and social care.

Research estimates that there are 237 million medication errors in the UK each year and as many as five deaths each day from errors in prescribing, dispensing or monitoring medications use. Many of them occur when information is transferred on paper because critical prescribing information can’t be shared from one computer system to another.

PRSB has worked with NHS England and NHS Digital to produce clear guidance for recording and sharing standardised computer-readable information between hospital, GP and community-based services. This will vastly reduce the current practice of sharing paper-based medicines information and re-keying it into computers which can lead to errors.

This will improve patient safety, increase efficient use of clinicians’ time and reduce medicines wastage.  The guidance will also help hospitals integrate electronic prescribing systems and pharmacy stock control which also will reduce waste and inefficiency.

At the moment, hospitals, GPs and other community-based services use different methods of prescribing so that when a patient transfers from one setting to another, clinicians need to  manually translate prescribing information to ensure the correct medicines, dosages and timings are identified and administered. Previous attempts to standardise and computerise this information failed because of the complexity and variety of prescribing methods, doses, timings and instructions.

Dose information has now been standardised for the most common uses. There is also guidance available for handling more complex cases. It sets out rules for translating medicines information between the different prescribing methods used in different care settings.  The solution will support digital sharing of medications information, with clinicians still deciding when to use or record the information. The guidance covers the majority of prescriptions, approximately 90%, with a few complex exceptions.

PRSB was asked to undertake a consultation with clinicians, professionals and people who will be using the standardised guidance to test whether it is safe, workable and would gain widespread support and acceptance.  PRSB’s report, digital medication information guidance, is available here. 

“Improving medicines information sharing by computerising processes and replacing paper-based ones that were prone to errors is a significant achievement. Thanks to the combined efforts of NHS England, NHS Digital and the PRSB, prescribing for patients should be safer, more efficient and fewer medicines will be wasted,” said Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the PRSB.


“The benefits to patients and the system are significant and for this reason, this project has been identified as the top priority of the NHS England interoperability programme, “ said Dr Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer, NHS England. “Health and care providers should prioritise implementing this guidance urgently.”

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