Prescribing guidance for junior doctors

JUNIOR doctors should be given more practical advice on prescribing and be encouraged to learn from mistakes, according to new guidance from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Trainees are responsible for two-thirds of all hospital prescribing, and an estimated seven per cent of all hospital medication orders are affected by errors. But the College said induction processes and postgraduate teaching around safe prescribing “can be variable”.

It goes on to criticise a “lack of a concerted effort to address the safety culture around safe prescribing” and said junior doctors are often unaware of their mistakes and do not always receive the necessary feedback to help them learn and improve.

Supporting junior doctors in safe prescribing sets out a number of key recommendations including greater support from hospital trusts to create safer working environments for junior doctors to prescribe. The RCP wants incident reports and other routinely collected data on prescribing errors to be used to identify areas for improvement and to feed into both quality improvement initiatives and postgraduate education and training.

The guidance also recommends that postgraduate medical education leads work collaboratively with medication safety officers to identify opportunities to cover safe prescribing within medical education, while highlighting the need to address the safety culture around prescribing, by encouraging active efforts to learn from errors, both at an individual and system level.

RCP director of patient safety and quality improvement John Dean said: “Prescribing of medicines is one of the commonest and most important actions undertaken by doctors. It is also one of the commonest areas where error occurs.

“Supporting doctors in safe prescribing, particularly in the earliest parts of their careers, is essential for safe practice.

“I encourage all hospital trusts and medical leads to read this resource and take on board our recommendations to ensure that prescription is an integral part of the medical curriculum across the board.”

Read the guidance here