Objectives: Prescription writing is a basic clinical skill for all doctors; however, errors in prescriptions are frequent and can result in significant harm to patients both from sub-therapeutic dosages and from over prescribing. This study examines the prescribing practices of ‘as required’ medications in an acute psychiatric inpatient unit attached to a university teaching hospital.
Method: A clinical audit was conducted to examine both prescribing practices of ‘as required’ medication and recording of ‘as required’ medication in nursing notes. A series of educational interventions were undertaken in an attempt to improve prescribing practices in relation to ‘as required’ medication and two further audits were completed to assess any change in practice and whether such changes were sustained.
Results: Psycho-education led to an improvement in a number of prescribing practices, including increased generic prescribing, improved documentation of indications for medication administration and increased writing of medication dosages in acceptable abbreviations. These benefits were maintained four months after the education interventions. Rates of documenting the frequency of medication correctly and recording the administration of medication in nursing notes remained low.
Conclusion: Our audit cycle clearly demonstrates that education can ameliorate prescribing practices and these improvements were maintained four months after education was delivered. However some aspects of prescribing practice remained deficient, and more focused educational interventions are required in these areas.