Written by

Bilal Qasim - Associate, Senior Solicitor

If you are prescribed medication by your GP, it is likely that you will go to a pharmacy to collect the medication. Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring that the medication that is prescribed to patients is suitable, and they are also responsible for giving advice to patients about medicines. If the wrong medication is given due to a pharmacy error, this can have serious and devastating effects for the patient. 

In this article, we will be discussing what to do if you are given the wrong medication and how to report a pharmacy error. 


What is a pharmacy error? 

A pharmacy error occurs when there has been a medication error during the process of prescribing, preparing, dispensing, and administering, monitoring or providing advice on medicines. These medication errors can occur at any point from when the medication has been ordered to when the patient is administered the drug. These errors can have devastating effects for patients including severe harm, disability or even death

What to do if you have been given the wrong medication 

If you have received the wrong medication from a pharmacy, there are a few different steps that you should take: 

  • Stop taking the medication as soon as you realise that it is wrong 
  • Get in touch with your doctor and explain to them what has happened 
  • Get in touch with the pharmacy that supplied you the medication and also explain to them what has happened 
  • Do not get rid of the unused medication and make sure you keep the packaging 

It is extremely important to stop taking the medication as soon as you realise that you have been given the wrong medication because taking the wrong medication can cause adverse effects for patients. It also means that the original condition that you needed treatment for will not have been treated properly. 


How to report a pharmacy error 

A pharmacy error, also known as a medication error, is a patient safety incident. According to the NHS, “patient safety incidents are any unintended or unexpected incident which could have, or did, lead to harm for one or more patients receiving healthcare.” 

It is extremely important that if you have been affected by a patient safety incident, you report it to the NHS so that the NHS are able to learn from their previous mistakes and they can therefore take action to keep all patients safe in the future. Both healthcare staff and patients are encouraged, by the NHS, to report any incidents relating to patient safety events whether they result in harm or not. 

Members of the general public and patients should report patient safety incidents to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS), which is the central database of patient safety incident reports. This database was set up in 2003 and since then, the culture of reporting incidents to improve the safety of patients in healthcare has greatly developed. The general public can report patient safety incidents using the following link:

These reports will be used to support national learning, however they will not investigate individual reports, so the general public will not receive replies. 

Healthcare staff are also encouraged to record all patient safety incidents where possible, these should be recorded on their organisation’s local risk management systems (LRMS). These reports will then be uploaded in order to support the national learning of the NHS. 


Making a complaint 

As mentioned above, reporting a patient safety incident will help the NHS learn from previous mistakes, however if you, as a patient, report an incident, it will not be looked at at an individual level. So, if you wish to make a complaint, you can make a complaint to the NHS and this can be about any aspect of NHS care, treatment or service, including pharmacy errors. 

It is important that you provide feedback to the NHS so that they are able to improve their services. If you have been provided with the wrong medication or you are unhappy with the service you received when receiving your medication from the pharmacy, you are able to make a complaint to the NHS. As a first stage, the NHS says that it is often worthwhile discussing your concerns with the provider of the service early on as they may be able to resolve the issue quickly. 

If you wish to complain to the NHS about a pharmacy error, the complaints procedure should be found within the particular pharmacy as everyone who provides an NHS service in England should have their own complaints procedure. 

When you are making a complaint, it should be made within 12 months of the incident and you are able to make a complaint verbally, in writing or by email. Once your complaint has been received, you should expect an acknowledgement and an offer of a discussion about the handling of your complaint within three working days. 

The complaint will then be investigated and once this has finished, you should receive a written response which should include the findings from the investigation and, where appropriate, apologies should be provided and also information as to what is being done about your complaint. 

Pharmacy errors can be devastating for patients and their families, so it is important that the NHS are made aware of any medication errors that have occurred so that they are able to improve their services. 

Pharmacy claims

Pharmacy errors can have harmful and long lasting effects for patients. If you have been provided with the wrong medication, it can lead to a range of potential side effects, and it is likely that you will not be receiving medication that was intended for you, meaning your original symptoms will not be getting treated. This could mean that your condition may become worse when it is meant to be getting better. If your condition becomes worse as a result of a pharmacy error or you suffer any harm, you may be able to claim for compensation due to medical negligence. 

There are a number of things that you can claim for relating to pharmacy errors, including: 

  • Dispensing the wrong prescription 
  • Dispensing the incorrect dose of medication 
  • Giving incorrect information regarding a prescription 
  • Incorrect labelling of a prescription 

Pharmacists have a duty of care to provide you with the correct medication and if you have suffered due to a pharmacy error, you may be able to claim. Contact Patient Claim Line today and one of our medical negligence experts will be able to guide you through your claims process on a no win no fee basis.

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