Medication and prescription errors are unfortunately quite common and can have devastating effects on a patient’s life. A medication error can refer to prescribing the wrong medicine, the wrong dosage, or faulty instructions on how to administer it.
While most mistakes have minor or no effects, around 25% of medication errors have the potential to cause moderate harm, and 2% could result in severe health complications and even death. In England, there are more than 237 million preventable errors each year, which costs the NHS nearly £98 million and around 1,700 lives.
Some of the most severe injuries that could result from a prescription error include allergic reactions, blood clots, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. These mistakes could also lead to psychological trauma, emotional distress and substantial financial losses.
If you or a loved one were affected by a medication error injury, you might be able to make a medication error claim. If you have a valid case, your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee service so you can take legal action without financial risks or upfront costs.
Can I make a medication error claim?
If you suffered an injury or your condition worsened due to incorrect medication, you might be able to make a prescription error claim.
Medical negligence claims can get complicated, so it is vital that you seek professional legal advice. Since not all medical mistakes or adverse effects of a drug are due to negligence, to be eligible for prescription error compensation, you must be able to prove the following:
A duty of care
Every doctor and medical staff owe a duty of care to their patients. This is defined as a general duty to provide care and assistance that conforms to the standard expected from a competent professional with the same level of training and experience.
A breach of duty
A breach of duty means that your doctor failed to provide the reasonable standard of care expected from a competent medical professional. They either did something they should not have done or failed to do something within their duty. For example, a failure to verify the expiry date of a drug they administered to you.
A breach of duty is not always easy to prove. Your solicitor will consult with medical experts who may use tools such as the Bolam Test or the guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to prove that the care you received was substandard.
To establish causation, you will need to prove that the injury you suffered was a direct result of negligent care rather than your underlying condition. If a healthcare professional committed a medication error that did not affect your health, your case would not stand. Furthermore, you may have to show that your injury was reasonably foreseeable.
To make a successful prescription error claim, you will need proof of all the personal and financial losses you want to include in your claim. Some valuable evidence includes your medical records, expert witness statements and receipts for financial expenses.
If you suffered an injury due to negligence, you are entitled to claim prescription error compensation from the NHS or a private healthcare provider.
The NHS and private clinics must have insurance in place to cover any personal injuries to patients. Your compensation award comes from the premiums paid to the insurance companies and will not affect the funds allocated for patient care and assistance.
What is classed as a medication error?
NHS Resolution, the insurance company that deals with all negligence claims against the NHS, defines a medication error as any preventable mistake in prescribing, dispensing, administering, or providing advice on a drug or treatment.
A medication error can occur at any stage in patient care, from prescribing a drug until the end of therapy. According to the NHS, anticoagulants, opioids, antidepressants and antimicrobials are the most common drugs that are involved in prescription error claims.
A medication error is a type of Patient Safety Incident (PSI), which is defined as any unintended or unexpected event that caused or may have caused harm to a patient. Patient Safety Incidents can be divided into:
- Errors of commission, such as prescribing the wrong medicine or the wrong dose
- Errors of omission, such as omitted dose or failure to monitor the patient’s response to the drug
Medication errors can occur in various healthcare environments, including the A&E, a GP’s practice, care home, pharmacy or school nurse’s office. The consequences to a patient could be any of the following:
- No consequence at all
- Severe allergic reaction
- Temporary nausea, vomiting or skin rashes
- Disability and permanent damage to organs such as the liver
- Injury to an unborn baby and birth defects
- Cardiac and respiratory failure
- Coma or death
Healthcare providers and pharmacists have a duty to ensure that each patient receives the appropriate medicine for their condition. If you or a loved one suffered a medication injury due to negligent prescription, dispensing or monitoring of your treatment, you might be entitled to compensation.
What should I do if I am given the wrong medication?
While most medication errors have little or no effect, some may have severe side effects with dramatic consequences. If you know or suspect that something is wrong with the treatment you received, stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical assistance to prevent any life-threatening health consequences.
If you suffered a significant physical or psychological injury due to being prescribed the wrong medication, you might be able to claim compensation. Once you are out of danger, you should contact a no win no fee solicitor as soon as possible. They will investigate your case and let you know if it has merit.
If you are eligible to claim prescription error compensation, your solicitor will guide you through all the steps of the claims process and help you gather evidence to build a strong case. There are several things that you can do to support your claim, including:
- Keep the packaging of the medication you received.
- If possible, keep a sample of the medication for testing.
- Try to get a copy of your medical records. This will show the state of your health before taking the drug and how the medication error caused you an injury.
- Keep a diary of all the personal and financial losses you suffered as a result.
- Get witness statements from friends, family or medical staff.
- Get the names and wards of the healthcare professionals that prescribed or administered the drugs.
Your solicitor will also arrange a free assessment with an independent expert who will determine the full extent of your injuries and the pain and suffering you experienced. They will also consider whether you suffered any psychological damage and the long-term or permanent effects on your health.
What are the most common prescription errors?
Unfortunately, inaccurate prescription and administration of medicine for an injury or illness can worsen your condition and could even lead to life-threatening complications. There are many different examples of errors that may occur during treatment, but some of the most common situations leading to a medication error claim include:
- Receiving the wrong medicine due to an illegible handwritten prescription
- Dispensing medicine for the wrong patient or ward in a hospital
- Receiving the wrong drug strength or dosage of the medication prescribed
- Omission of drug administration or incorrect timing of doses
- Dispensing medication to a patient allergic to one of the drug components
- Combining medicines that have dangerous drug-drug interactions
- Repeatedly prescribing medication without regular check-ups, which may lead to dependency and other health issues
- Receiving the wrong drug or dosage due to labelling mistakes, which may include an accidental overdose
- Being prescribed the wrong medicine for your health condition
- Dispensing an expired or almost expired medicine
This list is not exhaustive, and many other mistakes could occur during the prescription, dispensing and monitoring of drug treatments. While some errors may have no consequences, others could lead to severe health problems.
If you have evidence that your injury or illness was due to negligence, you might be able to make a prescription error claim for compensation. To start your claim, speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation.
How do medication errors happen?
Doctors and medical staff have a great responsibility when prescribing and administering medicine to patients and generally offer a high standard of care and treatment. Even so, medication errors are common, and they often occur due to:
- Poor communication between doctors and patients
- Failure to properly advise the patient on dosage and frequency
- Misdiagnosis of a condition for which the medicine is prescribed
- Miscommunication among doctors, nurses and other staff members
- Inadequate patient assessment or identification
- Working under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Lack of training and experience
- Illegible writing
- Inaccurate documentation of patient history, such as pre-existing conditions and allergies
- Look-alike, Sound-alike (LASA) medicines that are commonly mistaken for each other
The likelihood of medication errors increases at the emergency departments due to:
- High patient volume
- Fatigue and overwhelmed staff
- Difficult patients
- Staffing shortage
- Burnout and stress
There are many procedures that hospitals and healthcare providers should have in place to help prevent injury and medical error claims. Some examples of prevention strategies include:
- Improvements in drug labelling
- Using electronic prescriptions to eliminate handwriting errors
- Full disclosure when a medication error is made
- Adequate patient education about the appropriate use of their medicines
- Barcode technology to trace patients and their treatments
- Pharmacy verification of medication and drug interactions
- Patient wristband identification
- Multi-compartment medication devices for patients taking more than one drug
- Automated Medication Dispensing
How much compensation can I claim for a prescription error?
The amount of prescription error compensation you could receive depends on several factors, such as the type and extent of the injury it caused you and how this affected your day-to-day life.
Your solicitor will calculate how much you are entitled to claim based on all the evidence available. In every personal injury claim, you are entitled to recover two types of damages:
Special damages compensate you for the quantifiable monetary losses, such as:
- Lost wages, both past and future
- The cost of ongoing medical care
- Travel expenses
- Costs of care if you cannot look after yourself
- Rehabilitation and counselling
- Cost of specialist equipment such as mobility aids
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle to accommodate your injuries
- Private treatment and all other medical expenses
- The cost of additional help while recovering, such as childcare
General damages compensate you for the impact your injuries had on your personal life and may include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional and psychological trauma
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Inability to pursue a hobby or social event, known as loss of amenity
- Reduced quality of life
- Reduced life expectancy
- Physical or mental disability or impairment
General damages are financial compensation for the non-financial losses caused by your injury and are not easily quantifiable. In the UK, judges and solicitors base the award for general damages on similar previous cases and the guidelines offered by the Judicial College. According to them, you could receive:
- £205,580 to £264,650 for a blood clot that caused a severe brain injury
- £4,380 for mental anguish caused by fear of impending death or a reduction in life expectancy
- £23,150 to £59,860 for post-traumatic stress disorder that is likely to cause significant disability
- £12,000 to £300,000 for a fatal injury to a loved one caused by a medication error
- £60,000 to £100,000 for damage to internal organs
- £36,060 to £49,270 for severe reactions to wrong medication
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a medication error claim and give you a fair estimate of your compensation prospects.
How long do I have to make a medication error claim?
Usually, you have three years to start a medication error claim, either from the date you took the medicine or when you became aware of a related injury or illness. If you do not take legal action within the time limit, you lose your right to claim prescription error compensation.
There are several exceptions to the three-year time limit to make a prescription error claim. For example:
- If the victim is a child, the three-year countdown only begins once they turn 18. Before that, a litigation friend, such as a parent or legal guardian, can start a claim on their behalf at any point, regardless of when they were injured.
- There is no time limit to claim compensation for someone who lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings due to a medication error or a pre-existing condition such as a mental health or intellectual disorder.
- In wrongful death cases, a family member could bring a claim within three years after the date of death or the date you received a post-mortem report.
- If you suffered a medication injury while receiving treatment abroad, the time limit to take legal action can vary according to each country’s legislation and may be as short as six months.
By starting your claim sooner rather than later, you give your solicitor enough time to gather evidence to support your claim. This step of the claims process can take many months, and most solicitors will not accept a case with less than six months or even a year left to the limitation date. Furthermore, they could help you access private treatment that may not be available through the NHS.
To start your claim, speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation. Alternatively, you can request a call back by entering your details into our simple online claim form.