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What constitutes a prescribing error in paediatrics?


Objective: To develop a practitioner led definition of a prescribing error for use in prevalence/incidence studies in paediatric practice.

Design: A two stage Delphi technique was used to obtain the views of a panel of expert health professionals working in the hospital paediatric setting. The extent of their agreement on a definition of a prescribing error, and on 40 scenarios that might be classified as prescribing errors in paediatric practice, was obtained.

Results: Response rates were 84% (n = 42) in the first Delphi round and 95% (n = 40) in the second. Consensus was to accept the general definition of a prescribing error. In addition, there was consensus that 27 of the 40 scenarios should be included as prescribing errors, 10 should be excluded, and three may be considered prescribing errors depending on the individual clinical situation. Failure to communicate essential information, transcription errors and the use of drugs, formulations, or doses inappropriate for the individual patient were considered prescribing errors. Deviations from policies or guidelines, use of unlicensed and off-label drugs, and omission of non-essential information were not considered prescribing errors.

Conclusion: A general definition of a prescribing error has been developed that is applicable to the paediatric setting, together with more detailed guidance regarding the types of events that should be included. These findings are suitable for use in future research into the incidence and nature of prescribing errors in paediatrics.

  • medication errors
  • prescribing errors
  • children
  • Delphi technique

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