IV drug mix-ups

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Intravenous news: The NHS is threatening to stop using current drug equipment in a bid to get firms to start making safer devices. The National Patient Safety Agency wants to see an end to universal syringe connectors which can be used for jabs into both the vein and spine. The watchdog has set a deadline for 2013 – even though separate connectors to stop drug mix-ups are not available.

The move follows the 2001 death of Wayne Jowett when cancer drugs were injected into his spine. Since the death of the Nottingham teenager, a number of safety measures have been introduced across England and Wales.

Staff have been given extra training and there are now strict rules governing the separate storage of spinal and intravenous drugs. But despite improvements in safety, mistakes are still occurring. There is one error a month on average – although the last serious case was in early 2007 when a patient died. The continuing problems have prompted the safety watchdog to issue this recommendation for the health service. By making separate connectors it would make it impossible for hospital staff to connect drugs meant for veins to syringes to administer drugs to the spine and vice-versa.

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