Nearly one in three hospital patients with diabetes are victims of medication errors a recent audit has found. Incorrect medication can lead to diabetics suffering dangerous blood glucose levels.
The National Diabetes Inpatient Audit (NaDIA) examined data on 12,800 diabetic patients across 230 hospitals in England and Wales - as well as 6,600 patient surveys - during a seven-day period in October 2011. It revealed that 3,430 patients experienced at least one medication error during this period.
Of the patients affected by medication errors there was double the rate of hypoglycaemic episodes compared with those patients receiving the correct medication – 17% compared with just 7.5%.
Hypoglycaemic episodes (or ‘hypo’ as it is often known) occur when blood glucose levels drop dangerously low. If left untreated patients can suffer seizures, coma or even die.
A total of 68 patients developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) during their stay in hospital. DKA develops when blood glucose levels are left dangerously high, suggesting delayed insulin treatment. DKA can be fatal if left untreated.
The audit identified 11.1% of patients encountered medication problems when their bedside information chart was not signed off and 23.9% of patients did not have their medication levels adjusted when they had high blood sugar levels.
Around 100 diabetes patients undergo leg, foot or toe amputations every week in England, but the audit found that many hospitals did not have expert staff dealing with foot care.
Chief executive of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young said: “The fact that there are so many mistakes and that for some people a stay in hospital means they get worse should simply not be happening.
'Poor blood glucose management, caused by errors in hospital treatment, is leading to severe and dangerous consequences for too many people.”
The audit was managed by the NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre and Diabetes UK, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership. Audit lead clinician Dr Gerry Rayman said: “Training needs to be mandatory to improve diabetes control and reduce the frequency of severe hypoglycaemia.
“It is also needed to prevent diabetic ketosis occurring in hospital, for which there can be no excuse.
“Its occurrence is negligent and should never happen.”
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