Major issues surrounding the way doctors record patient allergy information is putting thousands of patients at risk, according to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Lack of awareness, inadequate documentation and poor communication between healthcare professionals has led to thousands of individuals being prescribed drugs to which they are known to be allergic.

Allergic reactions to particular drugs can be severe, and in the worst cases, life-threatening. Official data recorded more than 18,000 cases of patient safety being compromised by drug allergies in the NHS in England and Wales between 2005 and 2013. The majority of these involved a patient being prescribed medicines to which they were known to be allergic.

As a result, NICE has raised serious concerns over the way allergy data is recorded and shared, and has issued new guidelines – its first on allergies.

NICE has called for improvements in the way patient allergy information is collected, recorded and updated, and emphasised the vital importance of sharing this information with the patient and with other healthcare professionals. It has also called for prescriptions to be redesigned to highlight information on the classes of drugs an individual is known to be allergic to.

Allergy charity, Allergy UK, welcomed the new guidelines, emphasising the importance of better understanding and management of potentially serious drug allergies.

Linda Millband, clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Nottingham office, said: “Many allergies go undiagnosed, but allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Where a patient is known to be allergic to a particular drug or substance, it is entirely unacceptable for them to be prescribed a medicine in which it is used. It appears that poor documentation and communication between healthcare professionals is putting patients directly at risk.

“We welcome the new NICE guidelines, and the spotlight they shine on ensuring that patient information is recorded, updated and, most crucially, shared.”