A study of five hospitals undertaken by the University of London, has revealed that a fifth of drugs given to children in these hospitals over a two year period were administered incorrectly. On five occasions, one of the investigators had to intervene to prevent potentially fatal consequences. A high percentage of dosing errors was also identified.

The University of London commented that “prescribing for children is very difficult”, not least because most drugs are formulated for adults, not children. Doctors have to formulate their own dose calculations based upon the child’s age, weight and clinical condition.

In addition, many drugs given to children are unlicensed as they have not been tested and approved for use on children. It is crucial for staff involved in treating children to look for ways of minimising the risk of errors.

The National Patient Safety Association (NPSA) has considered patient safety among children in hospital and has identified some helpful action points for NHS organisations. A copy of the NPSA review can be found here.