Allergy Errors 'Putting Patients' Lives At Risk'

Patients' Lives Are Being Put At Significant Risk Due To 'Allergy Errors'

03.09.2014

Thousands of patients' lives are potentially being put at risk, due to doctors prescribing them medication they are known to be allergic to, a new report reveals.

Figures published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) show that between 2005 and 2013, 18,079 individuals were admitted to hospital due to an allergic reaction to a form of medication, resulting in six deaths and 19 cases of serious harm.

However, failure to properly record such incidents has resulted in a significant number of patients being prescribed these drugs to treat future conditions, putting their health and even their lives at serious risk.

Consultant allergist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and chair of the Guideline Development Group Dr Shuaib Nasser explained: "Wrongly prescribing drugs to people with known allergies puts them at serious risk of harm, but we know this can be avoided. It is important that this is done, as some allergic reactions can be fatal.

"The guideline stresses the care all healthcare professionals must take when documenting new drug allergies and the importance of sharing this information with patients and other healthcare professionals."

This guideline that Dr Nasser refers to recommends information relating to admissions for suspected drug allergies and states they should be dealt with in a structured manner.

Data including the name, strength and formulation of the drug in question should be recorded, along with the time and date of the reaction, as well as a description of the patient's symptoms.

This should then be added to the individual's electronic records and their GP should be informed of the development, meaning any prescriptions they are given in the future should take their allergies into account.

NICE is calling for renewed standardisation of both paper and electronic prescriptions in light of this, in a bid to protect the health of patients better in the future.

Additionally, the healthcare body wants patients' next of kin to be informed of any potential allergies an individual may suffer from, to prevent reactions from occurring if they are unable to speak for themselves.

Expert Opinion
The fact that the safety of so many patients is being put at risk through the prescription of medication that they are allergic to is extremely worrying, as this can have devastating consequences for those affected – particularly as some allergic reactions can prove to be fatal.

“Patient care should always be a top priority and this means ensuring allergies are properly recorded and understood by medical professionals treating and prescribing medication to individuals. We hope that this NICE report leads to action being taken to prevent patients with drug allergies from being put at risk. All too often we have seen the damage poor record-keeping procedures can have on the health of patients and it is crucial accurate histories are kept up-to-date and passed on to all medical professionals involved in the care of a patient.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner