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GMC to probe reasons for GP prescribing errors

The General Medical Council has funded a GBP 100,000 research project to investigate the prevalence and causes of errors in doctors' prescribing

The General Medical Council (GMC) has funded a GBP 100,000 research project to investigate the prevalence and causes of errors in doctors' prescribing.

The research will form the initial stage of a three-phase study investigating the frequency and reason behind prescribing errors firstly among Foundation Year 1 doctors, then among postgraduate medical education and finally continuing medical education.

The GMC said that a clear definition of the reasons for the causes of prescribing errors will help it to target its regulatory activities around the 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.

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.

The GMC will also set up working group to develop a series of steps which may address anecdotal examples of human error in doctor prescribing. A January 2007 meeting on this subject was attended by key stakeholders including the Audit Commission, British Pharmacological Society, medical schools and postgraduate deans.

Chairman of the GMC's Education Committee, Professor Peter Rubin, said: "Safe prescribing is crucial to patient safety. Claims that there is a link between education, training and poor prescribing have been 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 invitation to tender is entitled: "Research into the prevalence and causes of prescribing errors and recommendations about educational or ethical interventions the GMC could take to reduce the prevalence or causes".

The tender can be accessed by clicking on the following link: www.gmc-uk.org/education/research

11th April 2007

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