Doctor-Related Medication Safety Incidents on a Specialist Palliative Medicine Inpatient Unit: A Retrospective Analysis of Three Years of Voluntary Reporting

Patients receiving palliative care and those at the end of life are known to be susceptible to medical errors. Errors related to medications are the most avoidable cause of patient harm. This retrospective study examined reported anonymized medication safety incidents, related to physician errors, assessed by the risk committee in a specialist palliative care unit over a 3-year time period. The aim of the study was to describe medication errors, with specific attention paid to what type of errors occurred and when these errors happened. Of the 218 reported medication safety incidents 28% (n = 62) were related to doctor prescribing. The data showed that there was a wide variation per year in the numbers of reported medication safety incidents. Medication prescribing errors were the most common error, followed by medication omissions. Medication safety incidents are at least in part dependent on staff reporting. Fostering a culture of openness that is blame free is crucial to medication error reporting. Formal reporting may help to increase patient safety and forms an essential element in the clinical governance and risk management of an institution.