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  • Principal Investigator: Denham Phipps
  • 1 June 2022 to 31 May 2023
  • Project No: 579
  • Funding round: FR3

Over a billion prescription medicines are supplied in English primary care each year. On most occasions, these medicines are safe. Sometimes, though, a mistake occurs with the prescription. A recent study estimated that, across English primary healthcare, around 58 million errors occur in the prescribing or monitoring of medicines each year, of which 60% could cause harm.1 As primary care becomes increasingly busy, and there are more patients with complex medication needs, it is possible that the number of errors will increase.

From previous studies, we suspect that problems in the setup of healthcare workplaces can lead to errors with medicines. Prescribers are well qualified to carry out their work, but they can find themselves working under challenging conditions. For example: there may be too many tasks to do in a limited time; some of the tasks may be over-complicated; or their computers may be difficult to work with. To solve such problems, we need to use an approach called “human-centred design”, which examines what is involved in a work task and makes recommendations for designing the workplace in a suitable manner.

The aim of our project is to find out what the human-centred design needs are for medicines prescribing in primary care. We will use our findings to suggest how primary care services should be designed to ensure safe prescribing.
To achieve our project, we need to find out what issues prescribers encounter in their work. We will interview around 15 prescribers (including doctors and other healthcare professionals who have been trained to prescribe medicines) about their work. During each interview, we will also ask the prescriber to show us how they work with a type of prescribing software that is often found in general practices. We will use the information from the interviews to create a process map of prescribing, and identify the factors that affect how well people can carry out this task. We will then arrange a workshop with other prescribers to help us make design recommendations based on our findings. Finally, we will hold a series of workshops with prescribers and experts in design, during which we will sketch out what a well-designed workplace and equipment for prescribers would look like. This is something that we intend to pass on to suppliers of healthcare technology, and NHS policymakers, to show them how our recommendations might be put into practice.

We have asked a patient representative to help with our study. He will review our research plans, and meet with us on a regular basis to discuss our progress. We will also present our work a public advisory panel at The University of Manchester. This panel will be invited to comment on our ongoing findings.

Amount Awarded: £97,825

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.