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NHS chief moves to reassure over Scottish drug errors

Call for review of how drugs are administered in the NHS after patient's death

Scotland's chief medical officer has attempted to allay fears over whether drugs are being administered properly in the NHS after a series of mistakes by medical staff within the country.

The call for calm from Dr Harry Burns has come as a group of MSPs suggested the drug administering system needed a comprehensive review. Demands for a review have grown after three cases involving the maladministration of drugs were revealed in the past week.

Most recently, a seven-week-old baby was given the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) jab - an inoculation usually administered after one year. The baby had been taken to a doctor's surgery in Edinburgh for a diphtheria vaccination on January 31. However, Dr Rosalind Wight, who works at the Durham Road Medical Group surgery, gave the wrong vaccine.

Dr Wight told the Telegraph: îThe mistake was recognised straight away and the manufacturers were contacted. We were told the child's health would not be compromised and that additional treatment would not be necessary. The child has been checked and is in good health.î

Previously, Barbara Maguire, 51, died after receiving medicine intended for a different patient. Ms Maguire was placed in an emergency ward bed after being admitted to Glasgow's Stobhill Hospital with a stomach complaint in 2004.

Someone else had just vacated the bed and Ms Maguire was given medication intended for the bed's previous occupant.

A spokesman from NHS Greater Glasgow said: ìWe met with Ms Maguire's family at the time of her death, confirmed that the wrong medication had been given and expressed our sincere regretÖOver the past year we have provided information as requested to the procurator fiscal's office including, in the past week, a final report on the actions we have taken to prevent this happening again.î

A third high profile case came after the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow administered 17 potentially lethal overdoses to Lisa Norris, a 15-year-old Ayrshire girl suffering from a brain tumour.

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns told the BBC: ìThe number of deaths occurring in surgical care has actually been falling progressively over the past few yearsÖThese dreadfully unfortunate cases that we've heard about are very rare.î

However, the SNP's health spokeswoman, Shona Robison, has called for ìmore robust systemsÖto minimise human error in the health serviceî. She told The Herald: ìIt is vital that systems are reviewed to make them safer for patients.î

The NHS deals with over 20 million patient contacts each year.

Last week, a Commission for Social Care Inspection report said nearly fifty per cent of nursing and care homes in England are failing to meet the minimum drug prescribing standards.

30th September 2008

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