Western Sydney Local Health District

Medication Safety

Why is this important?

Medication is given to almost every patient in hospital and can be the most important part of treatment. However, medication is not without risk and occasionally medications can cause harm.

Some harm caused by medicines is due to errors that are preventable.

Hospitals and health services aim to prevent harm by:

  • understanding what contributes to these errors
  • taking action
  • sharing this information with the community and health professionals


What is happening with Medication Safety in Western Sydney Local Health District?

Harm associated with medication remains the second most common type of incident in hospitals, as reported by the Clinical Excellence Commission. Health services actively review medication safety.

In Western Sydney Local Health District we had 3.1 reported medication errors per 1,000 bed days* in 2015. This is an increase from  2014 data.  The increase appears to be related to an increase in hospital staff reporting medication incidents, in line with an increase in reported incidents overall.  Staff are encouraged to report all incidents which are rated by severity to help identify ways to improve medication safety .  Staff awareness in reporting incidents is continually encouraged.

Medication Errors by Year.png

* An “occupied bed day” is an bed where a patient is being treated on a particular day. Occupied bed days are useful when looking at our data because they help us to calculate whether there has been an actual change in performance or whether change might be related to an increase in the number of patients in hospital


What type of injury do people have as a result of medication errors?

The vast majority of medication errors result in no injury.  A minor injury may result, for example, in a patient needing an increased level of monitoring.  Even if incidents result in minor injury, managers and staff still take any errors very seriously, reviewing the actions around the incident and making improvements as a result.

Very few incidents result in permanent harm to the patient, as can be seen from the following graph. In the case of serious injury, a thorough investigation is made.

Medication errors by serverity 2015.png


How can you help?

  • know your medications
  • keep a list of regular medications you take, including alternative medications, and bring the list to hospital with you
  • ask nurses, doctors and pharmacists about your medications
  • you, your family or carer can ask nurses, doctors and pharmacists for information about new medications and changes in medication