Irish Journal of Medical Science

, Volume 179, Issue 2, pp 183–186 | Cite as

Determining the frequency of prescription errors in an Irish hospital

  • K. Bates
  • D. BeddyEmail author
  • C. Whirisky
  • M. Murphy
  • J. B. O’Mahony
  • K. Mealy
Original Article



Faults in writing prescriptions are a common source of medical error. Iatrogenic injury due to medication error increases patient morbidity and hospital stay, thereby encouraging litigation.


To assess the accuracy and legibility of the prescriptions in patients’ medication charts.


A cross-sectional observational study examined prescribing records of inpatients randomly selected in two surgical wards. Medication charts were assessed by a committee consisting of a nurse, a pharmacist and a doctor for omission and legibility of prescribing information.


Important patient information and medication administration details were frequently omitted from charts. Overall, 27% of individual prescriptions had potential to cause prescription error because of illegibility or omission of medication administration details.


The results of this study demonstrate that prescription error frequently occurs in the clinical workplace and may contribute to medical error. Improving legibility of handwriting and use of novel prescribing devices may reduce prescription error.


Error Prescribing Adverse drug event Irish 



The authors would like to acknowledge the support and expertise lent by Mr. J.B. O’Mahony, who has sadly passed away since completion of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Bates
    • 1
  • D. Beddy
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Whirisky
    • 1
  • M. Murphy
    • 1
  • J. B. O’Mahony
    • 1
  • K. Mealy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryWexford General HospitalWexfordIreland

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