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P10 To give, or not to give…
  1. Zoe Lansdowne
  1. University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust


Aim ‘Between September 2006 and June 2009, the NPSA (National Patient Safety Agency) received reports of 27 deaths, 68 severe harms and 21 383 other patient safety incidents relating to omitted or delayed medicines’.1 The Trust’s Medicines Code states that ‘critical’ medicines should be administered within one hour of the prescribed times, and all other medicines within 90 min.2 ‘Critical’ medicines relevant to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) patients include injected antibiotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, aminophylline infusions and strong opioid analgesics. The aim of this audit was to establish what proportion of medicines prescribed for patients on NICU were given outside of this policy.

Method Data was downloaded for all NICU inpatients from the electronic prescribing system, ICCA, from 1/4/16 to 30/6/16 inclusive. It was then analysed using Excel. The data shows details of all regular drugs prescribed, the scheduled administration time and the time that the nurses recorded that the drug had been administered. Once only, when required and drug infusions longer than 4 hours were all excluded from this data capture. Scheduled doses of antibiotics that were intentionally delayed whilst awaiting levels, e.g. vancomycin and gentamicin, were excluded before data analysis.

Results It was found that over the 3 month period, 137 different patients were administered 10 642 regular doses of 51 different medications. 5.86% of these were classified as ‘delayed’ according to Trust policy. 97.6% of these delayed ‘critical’ medications were antibiotics, accounting for over 45% of the total delayed doses.

Meropenem was found to be the antibiotic most frequently delayed, with over one quarter of all doses prescribed being administered more than 1 hour after the scheduled time. The delay in administration ranged from 65 mins to 6 hours. Ceftazidime was the next most frequently delayed, occurring 22.7% of the time, range 2.75 to 3.75 hours.

The time of day when most drug delays occurred was between the times of 15:00 and 15:59, accounting for 8.2%. The percentage for each hourly time slot varied from 2.1% to 8.2%. Throughout the week, the percentage of delays on an individual day ranged from the most on Saturdays, 17.9%, to the least on Wednesdays, 9.6%.

Conclusions Delays in administering medicines can have significant detrimental effects for patient safety. Trust policy dictates that ‘critical’ medicines should be administered within 1 hour of the prescribed times.2 It can be seen from the results above that the administration of medications were delayed 5.86% of the time, with antibiotics accounting for over 45% of these delayed doses. The administration of meropenem was delayed over 25% of the time.


  1. National Patient Safety Agency. Rapid Response Report 009. Reducing harm from omitted and delayed medicines in hospital2010.

  2. Holmes, G. Chapter M09 policy for the administration of medicines [ policy document ]2016. University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

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