HOSPITAL patients have been issued with vital drugs by unqualified office workers with no medical background for more than a decade, an investigation has revealed.
An internal audit, made public under the Freedom of Information Act, also found that health professionals other than doctors had been left to dish out drugs to Lothian patients.
And it also showed documents which allow specific patient groups to be given drugs without individual prescriptions had not been completed properly, meaning drugs had been distributed illegally under the Medicines Act.
MSPs and the British Medical Association Scotland have expressed concern.
Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said: “There are strict protocols and guidance on who should be prescribing and administering drugs. It is important that prescribing protocols are followed and regulated properly so that patient safety is maintained.” Despite uncovering several deficiencies, the NHS Lothian audit team rated the health board “satisfactory” after the probe into prescribing practices and costs, which also revealed hospital doctors may be asking GPs to prescribe drugs not approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
However, members of the health board’s audit and risk committee said they had “serious concerns” after reading the report and the matter has now been handed to Professor Morag Bryce, chair of NHS Lothian’s healthcare governance committee.
Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said patients would find it “shocking” that unqualified staff members were giving out drugs. The audit revealed clerical staff in the waiting list department posted out non-prescribed drugs to patients before certain operations, when they should have been issued by registered nurses. This has been ongoing for more than ten years.
Ms Boyack added: “People want to have faith in their NHS but examples like this are cause for concern.”
Professor Angela Timoney, NHS Lothian’s director of pharmacy, said action had been taken following the audit.
She added: “The results of the audit reflect that the vast majority of prescribing complies with expected good practice. However, the audit identified that improvements can be made in documentation relating to some specific areas.
“While we acknowledge that administrative points need to be tightened around those specific areas, the audit does not report any cases of medicines being prescribed inappropriately.
“In particular, clinical decisions for prescribing are overseen by senior clinical staff.”