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University study shows leadership is needed to improve healthcare safety

Professor Derek Stewart, from Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences

There are serious concerns around medication error internationally, and a newly completed international study has identified positive leadership and increasing engagement as being key to improving matters.

Professor Derek Stewart, from Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences has recently presented these findings from an international study into medication error and safety, which was funded by the Qatar National Research Fund.

The two-year project, from which several peer-reviewed papers are currently under review – explored aspects of medication error reporting from the perspectives of healthcare professionals and also those in positions of power and influence.

The research was split into three distinct phases. The first was a mixed-methods approach exploring aspects of safety culture amongst health professionals, which noted concern around non-punitive responses to medication errors and levels of staffing at times such as evenings and weekends.

Following this, the researchers focused on barriers to healthcare workers reporting errors and found that emotional influences played a big part. It was noted that workers would often consider the potential impact reporting would have on staff appraisal, career progression and professional reputation, which caused considerable concern.

Finally, the researchers interviewed individuals in positions of leadership in policy, healthcare practice and education, and explored their perceptions to the results of the earlier research phases.

Many of those interviewed were aware of the difficulty of improving safety culture worldwide and removing all barriers for those reporting errors and concerns. They highlighted the importance of positive engagement from decision-makers and those with influence to all levels of staff and healthcare workers.

Professor Stewart, who last year was appointed as Chair of the European Society of Clinical Pharmacy (ESCP) Research Committee, anticipates that these findings will support the development of procedures to improve medication safety.

He said: “Concerns around medication error and safety are common worldwide and it is not only important to understand why but to discover what those working in and around healthcare believe will improve matters.

“By splitting our research into its three parts, we were able to understand the feelings of individuals working with medication every day as well as discussing measures with those in power.

“RGU is committed to leading the way with innovative research in areas such as this, which can make a significant difference to health and wellbeing. While this two-year study has been uncovered some enlightening results, which we believe a lot of good can come from, we are now planning a follow-up study to examine the situation in even greater detail.”

Fellow investigators on the research study included RGU’s Dr Katie MacLure and researchers from the University of Aberdeen, Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar University and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Professor Stewart presented the group’s findings presented at the 4th Qatar International Pharmacy Conference, recently held in Doha, where he also met with members of Hamad Medical Corporation to discuss further joint working, following a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the organisation and RGU.

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