A report for the GMC: Investigating the prevalence and causes of prescribing errors in general practice, The PRACtICe Study. 2012. (accessed 9 December 2021)

Bullen K, Hall N, Sherwood J Prescribing error reporting in primary care: a narrative synthesis systematic review. Integrated Healthcare Journal. 2020; 2

Care Quality Commission. GP mythbuster 24: Reporting patient safety incidents to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) for GP practices. 2021. (accessed 9 December 2021)

Cousins D, Crompton A, Gell J, Hooley J. The top ten prescribing errors in practice and how to avoid them. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2019; 302:(7922)

Department of Health and Social Care. Good for you, good for us, good for everybody: A plan to reduce overprescribing to make patient care better and safer, support the NHS, and reduce carbon emissions. 2021. (accessed 16 December 2021)

Elliott RA, Camacho E, Jankovic D, Sculpher MJ, Faria R. Economic analysis of the prevalence and clinical and economic burden of medication error in England. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021; 30:(2)96-105

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, NHS England. Patient safety alert: Stage Three: Directive Improving medication error incident reporting and learning, supporting information. 2014. http://psa-sup-info-med-error.pdf (accessed 9 December 2021)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. The NMC register. 2021a. (accessed 9 December 2021)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. The professional duty of candour. 2021b. (accessed 9 December 2021)

Prescribing errors in general practice

02 January 2022
9 min read


Prescribing errors are relatively common in general practice. Jennifer McCutcheon provides an overview of common prescribing errors and how they can be prevented

Nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals are increasingly becoming prescribers and many of them work autonomously in general practice. Prescribing professionals have a duty to understand what a prescribing error is, common examples of errors in practice, how they are prevented and how they can be investigated and reported should they occur.

It is estimated that every year in the NHS in England 237 million medication errors occur (Elliot et al, 2021); of these 21% are made during the prescribing stage and 38% are in primary care. Prescribing was introduced in legislation for nurses and pharmacists in a stepwise manner, culminating with full independent prescribing rights for nurses in 2006, with an aim of improving patient's access to medicines. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMCa) data from March 2021 suggests that 50 693 of the 730 000 NMC nurse registrants are now independent or supplementary prescribers. There is a lack of data specifically on non-medical prescribing error rates in the general practice setting, likely due to the shorter length of time that non-medical prescribers have been in practice, and lack of prescribing error data overall in primary care. In this article we cover what a prescribing error is, the most common errors and how to investigate and report them.

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