Research Article

Effect of reactive pharmacy intervention on quality of hospital prescribing.

BMJ 1990; 300 doi: (Published 14 April 1990) Cite this as: BMJ 1990;300:986
  1. C J Hawkey,
  2. S Hodgson,
  3. A Norman,
  4. T K Daneshmend,
  5. S T Garner
  1. University Hospital, Nottingham.


    OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the medical impact of reactive pharmacy intervention. DESIGN--Analysis of all interventions during 28 days by all 35 pharmacists in hospitals in Nottingham. SETTING--All (six) hospitals in the Nottingham health authority (a teaching district), representing 2530 mainly acute beds, 781 mental illness beds, and 633 mainly health care of the elderly beds. PATIENTS--Hospital inpatients and outpatients. INTERVENTIONS--Recording of every important intervention made by pharmacists to prescriptions for both inpatients and outpatients when they perceived inadequacies of drug prescription or administration, including characterisation of the problem, coding of outcome, recording of time taken to initiate and resolve intervention, and grade of prescribing doctor. The problems were independently assessed for their potential to cause medical harm. RESULTS--769 Interventions (about 2.9% of prescriptions) were made, of which 60 concerned prescriptions rated as having a major potential for medical harm. The commonest problems concerned dosage, which was wrong in 280 prescriptions (102 for antibiotics) and not stated in 50 (one for antibiotics), especially those associated with a major potential for medical harm (32 prescriptions). These concerned sedatives; analgesics; cardiovascular drugs or diuretics; and iron, vitamin, or mineral preparations. Also common were overprolonged prescription of antibiotics (48 prescriptions), confusion of drug names (nine), and inadvertent coprescription of excessive quantities of aspirin or paracetamol in plain and compound preparations (seven). The pharmacist's recommendation was accepted in 639 instances (86%), and the prescription was altered in 575, leading to an appreciable (246 cases) or minor (231 cases) improvement. Interventions had little effect on costs; 427/646 had no effect and 130 produced savings less than 50p. Pharmacy intervention (730/769 interventions) occupied on average 41 minutes per pharmacist per week. CONCLUSIONS--Most reactive pharmacy interventions concerned prescribing errors with a limited potential for medical harm, but a small number of detected errors with a major potential for medical harm; cost savings were not appreciable.