Errors in General Practice? Yes, but how many and where…

13 Nov

by Sudeh Cheraghi-Sohi, GM PSTRC Research Fellow on General Practice theme


Since the publication of the landmark report ‘To Err is Human’ in 1999, patient safety has received considerable attention worldwide. One area that hasn’t, is General Practice. General Practice is not necessarily somewhere that one thinks of as ‘unsafe,’ and of course thankfully for the most part it isn’t, however the sheer volume of patient contacts, approximately 300 million per year, mean that there are plenty of opportunities for safety incidents and errors to occur.

So what types of things am I talking about? Well the two most common areas for errors to occur are thought to be in 1) diagnosis, in terms of diagnoses being missed, delayed or simply wrong; and 2) treatment, for example, prescribing the wrong drug or dose etc. (Sandars et al. 2003).  We now have good evidence for the latter via The PRACtICe Study,but beyond prescribing errors, the evidence base in the UK is not robust and therefore we have no idea of the true prevalence of error more generally.

One of our major tasks in the GP theme therefore is to produce an estimate of the prevalence of error in general practice. This is a huge and complex undertaking and we are currently designing our study to hopefully produce this figure and I will update you on this once we have finalised our plans.

So what will we do when we have calculated our prevalence estimate? Well by knowing how many errors are occurring and more importantly where they are occurring, we can direct our attention to how we might reduce the frequency of them actually happening. One way we can do this is via educational interventions.

This neatly leads me into another project that we are developing namely, Simulation Laboratories. In partnership with Salford Royal Foundation Trust, we are going to design and build our simulation lab as well as develop the materials used within them to help train clinicians such as General Practitioners to practice safely. That’s the plan anyhow!

Finally, you can also find out about another area of work we are currently doing around so called ‘Never Events’ by looking at another post I wrote for our Centre for Primary Care blog by clicking here

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