Professor Chakravarthi Rajkumar, Chair of Geriatrics and Stroke Medicine at BSMS, and senior author, said: “As the use of medicines in the ageing population is rapidly increasing, it is vital that we improve awareness among clinicians of the harm that medicines commonly cause. The risk-to-benefit analysis is particularly complex in the older population. Once medicine is initiated, there should be a tentative stop date, monitoring of correct usage and vigilance for adverse reactions.
When a patient is due for surgery, full informed consent is taken after the risks and benefits are clearly discussed. Medication-related harm can be life-threatening and similarly decisions to prescribe high-risk medicines should be taken after a comprehensive discussion with the patient. While the cost implications are significant, the magnitude extends beyond finances to adversely affect the quality of life for patients and families.”
The study found there was a substantial use of NHS services attributable to the medication-related harm. Four out of every five patients who experienced harm then utilised NHS services, and eight per cent of patients were readmitted to hospital as a consequence. Based on these results, the estimated cost to the NHS in England is £396 million annually.