New electronic medication system to improve safety

Pic of Anthony Bartlett and Duane McLean looking at system

Kettering General Hospital has been awarded £820,000 to introduce a new high-tech electronic system that will improve the safe use of medicines for patients.

It made a successful bid to NHS Improvement to fund a new Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration (EPMA) system.

KGH’s Chief Pharmacist, Duane McLean, who made the bid on behalf of the Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted our bid has been successful.

“Basically it will enable us to start changing the way medicines are prescribed and administered at the hospital.

“We currently use a paper system whereby drug charts are filled in by doctors and nurses and then go into a patient’s hard copy notes.

“We will be replacing this with a completely new electronic system for recording all medications, and doses of medication, that a patient receives while in hospital and goes home with.

“This will be major step forward in safety because it provides a complete account of a patient’s medication history which is quickly accessible .

“It will tell staff if a patient has any allergies or sensitivities to medication, highlight any possible interactions between medications, and generally give doctors and nurses a clear and very up to date picture of the way a patient’s condition is being treated using medications.”

Other safety improvements the electronic system will provide include:

  • Preventing errors caused by illegible hand writing on prescriptions and charts
  • Ensuring prescriptions contain all the required information – dose, frequency, who has prescribed it etc
  • Reducing waste by enabling pharmacy staff to better understand when to order in new supplies – preventing duplication
  • Saving staff time by reducing the need to completely re-write drug charts when they expire or to record the same information in several places – previously done using extra hard copies
  • Reducing the risk of errors in medicine doses because the system is designed to record things such as the patient’s bodyweight and renal function which can influence how much medication is needed.

KGH’s Director of Nursing and Quality, Leanne Hackshall, said: “By introducing this state-of-the-art electronic prescribing and administration system we are making the hospital safer for our patients.

“It’s about reducing the risk of human error and also about releasing staff time from paperwork so that they can spend more time with our patients.”

The hospital already had plans to introduce electronic prescribing but winning the £820,000  from NHS Improvement will help speed up the process – likely to cost about £1.6m over two years.

The process will involve purchasing software – already successfully used by other Trusts across the country – as well as lap tops and tablets to help staff use the system. The system should be fully up and running by Spring 2021

Medication is a key intervention in many patient conditions. On average the NHS delivers the equivalent of 20 prescription items per person per year. At KGH this equates to dispensing 10.5 million doses of medication each year at a cost of £23 million.

The electronic prescribing system is a key part of the hospital’s digital strategy which is moving the hospital towards paperless working by 2022.

It is also in line with digitalisation proposed in the Long Term NHS plan which was released on the 7th January 2019