Improving medication safety

Antony Chuter, Public and Community Involvement and Engagement member for Improving medication safety.“The medication safety theme will help to ensure that health professionals have the best information available for prescribing medicines safely.

This is vitally important for patients who want to be more involved in decisions where their safety may be at risk.”

Antony Chuter / Public and Community Involvement and Engagement member for Improving medication safety.

Our research into medication safety

Medicines are one of the most used clinical interventions, but errors can lead to harm being caused to individuals.

Medication-related errors are among the most frequently reported causes of patient safety incidents across the NHS. According to our previous research, 237 million medication errors occur in England annually. Improving medication safety across health and social care settings (such as GP practices, nursing homes and hospitals) is the focus of this theme’s research.

Our studies focus on the medication-related safety problems that are most important, based on epidemiological evidence. This means our research centres on patients and those in contact with social care in greatest need, and helps to narrow the gap in health inequalities.

Added to this, our studies are co-designed with patients, carers, and people who work across health and social care, and are impacted by or involved in medication safety.

Our approach

Our research focuses on understanding the impact on safety (including cost-effectiveness) of new safety innovations. It also looks at existing, widely used, and high-cost safety interventions that do not have a clear evidence base, making sure patient safety practices are more effective. This is one of the strategic challenges set out by NHS England’s Patient Safety Strategy.

Our work aims to make the process of prescribing and using medication safer across health and social care. Our studies are designed to:

Determine the most (cost-)effective ways to improve medication safety

Several interventions have been rolled out by NHS England. Our research aims to identify the most cost-effective medication safety interventions so these can be promoted to ensure as many people benefit from them as possible.

Make electronic prescribing decision support safer

Using computer software to support decisions made around prescribing can lead to a fall in unsafe prescribing. However, this depends on the design and content of the alerts.

Our work identifies the features of alerts that are most likely to result in safer prescribing behaviour.

Find ways of identifying and correcting unsafe prescribing

We want to develop and evaluate methods of identifying and correcting prescribing that could be potentially unsafe.

Our previous research has led to interventions such as SMASH being rolled out across Greater Manchester and PINCER being made available nationally.

We aim for this theme of work to result in regional and national approaches to further improve medication safety.

Key people

Our research takes place across primary, secondary, and social care settings by teams at The University of Manchester and the University of Nottingham. They are led by experts in medication safety who have a proven track record of delivering interventions that improve patient safety.

Professor Tony Avery (theme co-lead)

Tony is the National Clinical Director for Prescribing at NHS England. He is also a GP and Professor of Primary Health Care at the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and an NIHR Senior Investigator.

View Tony’s research profile

Professor Darren Ashcroft (theme co-lead)

As well as co-leading this theme, Darren Ashcroft is the GM PSRC Director and Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at The University of Manchester.

He advises the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and is a board member of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR).

View Darren’s research profile

Professors Tony Avery and Darren Ashcroft have delivered some of the most important research available on improving medication safety. Interventions they’ve developed have been rolled out regionally and nationally, and are already making a difference.

The PSRC team

Learn more about the researchers who deliver this work.

Research publications

Read published papers about our safer health and care systems research.