Diabetes on the Net. Six Steps to Insulin safety. 2017. (accessed 21 October 2020)

Diabetes UK. Number of people with diabetes reaches 4.8 million. 2020. (accessed 21 October 2020)

Diabetes Update. Insulins. 2017. (accessed 21 October 2020)

Dougherty L, Lister S. The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures.Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; 2015

Down S, Kirkland F. Injection technique in insulin therapy. Nurs Times. 2012; 108:(10)18-21 Diabetes and Driving. Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency regulations. 2020. (accessed 21 October 2020)

Injection technique matters. 2011. (accessed 21 October 2020)

Hirsch LJ, Gibney MA, Albanese J Comparative glycemic control, safety and patient ratings for a new 4 mm x 32G insulin pen needle in adults with diabetes. Curr Med Res Opin. 2010; 26:(6)1531-1541

Lipska KJ, Yao X, Herrin J Trends in Drug Utilization, Glycemic Control, and Rates of Severe Hypoglycemia, 2006-2013. Diabetes Care. 2017; 40:(4)468-475

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Safer Insulin prescribing. 2017. (accessed 21 October 2020)

National Patient Safety Agency. Rapid Response Report NPSA/2010/RRR013: Safer administration of insulin. 2010. (accessed 21 October 2020)

NHS England, NHS Improvement. Provisional publication of Never Events reported as occurring between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019. 2019. (accessed 21 October 2020)

NHS Improvement. Never Events policy and framework. 2018. (accessed 28 October 2020)

Primary Care Diabetes Society. The six steps to insulin safety. 2017. (accessed 21 October 2020)

World Health Organization. Medication Errors. Technical Series on Safer Primary Care. 2016.;jsessionid=71DC54B97E50540B21F038F62668EB44?sequence=1 (accessed 21 October 2020)

Insulin safety: what is all the fuss about?

02 November 2020
10 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 11


Errors in the prescribing, dispensing and administration of insulin can cause serious harm. Anne Cartwright raises awareness of the risks

In 2010 National Patient Safety Alerts produced a rapid response report ‘Safer Use of Insulin’ in response to an increasing number of medication incidents leading to severe harm or death as a result of errors with insulin therapy. In 2017 the World Health Organization launched a global initiative to reduce avoidable medication error by 50% over 5 years. This article aims to raise awareness of the risks of insulin therapy, the common mistakes that can be made in the prescribing, dispensing and administration of insulin, and to inform health professionals who are involved in caring for people on insulin therapy how to reduce the risk of potential harm.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas by the islets of Langerhans (beta cells) and is essential for life. The lack or relative lack of insulin production results in raised blood glucose levels and causes diabetes. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the UK is estimated at 4.8 million people, approximately 8% type 1 and 90% type 2 (Diabetes UK, 2020). Rates of insulin therapy in the UK continue to rise and approximately 30% of people with diabetes are treated with insulin – this includes people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (Lipska et al, 2017).

In 2010 National Patient Safety Alerts (NPSA) produced a raid response report, Safer Use of Insulin, with regards to the increasing number of serious incidents leading to severe harm or death related to insulin therapy. Unfortunately, 10 years on we are still experiencing patient harm as a result of medication errors with insulin (England and NHS Improvement, 2019), with medication errors related to the administration of insulin and inaccurate prescribing being the commonest errors.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting Practice Nursing and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for general practice nurses. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month