A report published by the National Patient Safety Agency says that children are the worst affected by hospital drug errors. Sometimes they receive doses of powerful drugs that should never have been given to them in the first place.
The report says that from October 2007 to September 2008, some 33 children and 39 babies less than a month old died due to drug errors that were preventable. Jenny Mooney, who is the child health lead at the NPSA, said the main issue was that drug companies rarely manufactured kid doses and it was left to nurses to titrate the right amount of medicine for children, which is where most errors occur.
"The doctor prescribes in milligrams but most children are given oral medicine in millilitres," she said. "Normally, the nurse has to make the calculation."
As an example the report cited the use of gentamycin. Around 400 incidents of wrong dosage were reported between April 2007 to March 2008, among which 66% were related to problems with the administration, to 23% prescribing and 6% to monitoring.
The NSPA also said that it may have not got the full picture regarding drug errors because it relied on reported incidents.