|Tuesday, December 18, 2001 The number of deaths arising from hospital medication errors has risen 500% in ten years, a new report reveals. Around 1,200 patients in England and Wales died last year because of medication errors, with one in ten suffering an adverse event of some kind. The Audit Commission's report, 'A Spoonful of Sugar', says illegible, incomplete or missing patient records were to blame for many errors, and that half of all errors were avoidable. One of the report's authors, Nick Mapstone, said: "It is relatively straightforward to fix but it requires investment. The health service is probably spending half a billion a year making better people who experienced an adverse incident or error - and that does not include the human cost to the patients." Dr Trevor Pickersgill of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee said there were many reasons for the increase in ADRs. "The number of drugs is increasing, the effectiveness - and therefore often the toxicity - of drugs is increasing, the number of people on multiple medications is increasing, and that increases the risk of interaction." A National Patient Safety Agency has already been founded to combat the problem, and computerised prescribing systems in place by 2005 should cut the number of errors. Twenty five hospitals are currently involved in a trial of a new national system for reporting failures, mistakes and near misses. The trials are due to be completed in the New Year, after which the system will be implemented nationwide. One of the NPSA's board members is former NHS pharmacist Lawrence Goldberg, currently a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry specialising in the prevention of medication error. One of the agency's aims is to reduce serious errors in the use of prescribed drugs by 40% by the end of 2005, with an MCA-industry consultation on improvements to labelling already underway.