Understanding the attitudes of hospital pharmacists to reporting medication incidents: a qualitative study

Res Social Adm Pharm. Jan-Feb 2013;9(1):80-9. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Mar 27.


Background: The attitudes of doctors, nurses, and midwives to reporting errors in health care have been extensively studied, but there is very limited literature considering pharmacists' attitudes to medication error reporting schemes, in particular in hospitals.

Objectives: To explore and understand the attitudes of hospital pharmacists to reporting medication incidents.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted with a total of 17 hospital pharmacists from 4 purposively sampled hospitals in the North West of England. The recordings of the focus groups were transcribed verbatim and subject to thematic analysis using a framework analysis approach.

Results: Pharmacists agreed that the high prevalence of medication errors, especially prescribing errors of omission, has led to an acceptance of not using hospital reporting systems. There were different personal thresholds for reporting medication errors but pharmacists agreed that the severity of any patient harm was the primary reporting driver. Hospital pharmacists had specific anxieties about the effects of reporting on interprofessional working relationships with doctors and nurses, but felt more confident to report if they had previously witnessed positive feedback and system change following an error. Existing reporting forms were considered too cumbersome and time consuming to complete, as pharmacists felt the need to find and record every possible detail.

Conclusions: Hospital pharmacists understood the importance of reporting medication incidents, but because of the high number of errors they encounter do not report them as often as may be expected. The decision to report was a complex process that depended on the severity of patient harm, anxieties about harming interprofessional relationships, prior experience of the outcomes from reporting, and the perceived effort required to use reporting forms.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • England
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmacists / psychology*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / organization & administration*