Date Published: 5 April 2007

GMC investigates causes of prescribing errors (UK)

The GMC has announced funding for a £100,000 research project that aims to investigate the prevalence and causes of errors in doctors' prescribing.

The research will form the initial stage of a three-phase study looking specifically at the prevalence and causes of prescribing errors - first among Foundation Year 1 doctors, then to encompass postgraduate medical education, and finally continuing medical education. A clear definition of the reasons for the causes of prescribing errors will help the GMC to target its regulatory activities at those causes.

Interested parties have been invited to submit a tender proposal to the GMC's Education Committee by 9 May 2007. Work on of the research is expected to be completed by July 2009.

Professor Peter Rubin, chair of the GMC's Education Committee said:

" Safe prescribing is crucial to patient safety. Claims that there is a link between education, training and poor prescribing are, so far, anecdotal rather than based on robust evidence. The GMC takes a strong interest in these claims, and is committed to finding out more. We are confident that this research will help shed light on the extent to which this problem exists and identify its causes."

The GMC sets the standards and outcomes for basic medical education in the UK. This covers undergraduate education and the first year of training after graduation. It involves establishing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour required of doctors when they qualify and includes good practice in prescribing as well as other clinical and practical skills.

In addition to commissioning the research, the GMC will facilitate a working group to look at practical steps that might be taken to address anecdotal examples of human error that could be a factor in doctor prescribing. A meeting on the subject convened in January 2007 was attended by key stakeholders including the Audit Commission, British Pharmacological Society, medical schools and postgraduate deans.


Source: The General Medical Council (GMC), UK.

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