Basic errors put patients at risk of serious harm
Thursday, Dec 12th 2013

A new report  found that several thousand patients may have been exposed to serious harm for a number of years due to basic errors in safety and quality standards. The research was performed by professor Stephen Field, the chief inspector of general practice for the U.K.'s Care Quality Commission, and studied the healthcare habits of family doctors and GP surgery staff. 

The Independent reported that of the 910 surgeries observed by Field and his team, one third were found to fail one or more of the 16 basic standards for safety and quality in medical operations, as outlined by the independent U.K. health regulator. The top failures were related to infection control, cleanliness and medicine handling and management. The study also stated that 10 organizations' standard failures were so severe that they had the potential to put thousands of individuals in jeopardy of health issues.

One main problem in many healthcare groups was cleanliness, illustrated by the fact that teams found cobwebs and insects at a facility that was previously considered a "good practice."

"We're talking about the fact that we found maggots in a treatment room," Field told the source. "And when we asked the question - and this is a good practice - the nurse said yes we do seem to have a bit of a problem."

Furthermore, teams found improper vaccine handling, which could also lead to serious health problems for patients. These failures were associated with outdated vaccines that should have been disposed of several months before, emergency injections being left out at room temperature and vaccine storage refrigerators that were not monitored.

Industry guidelines for vaccine storage
Field's study highlights the importance of following healthcare guidelines, especially those relating to vaccine storage and handling. According to Health.gov, medical organizations should not utilize domestic or kitchen refrigerators for storing vaccines, as they are  designed for food storage and are not up to the temperature standards for vaccines. Instead, organizations should utilize a purpose-built refrigerator designed to fulfill the requirements of medicine storage.

Furthermore, to ensure that vaccines are kept at the proper level, a vaccine temperature monitor or data logger should be installed and checked often. These items should be kept between 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) and 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius). Administrators should aim to maintain a temperature level of 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). Health.gov also recommends resetting these systems after the storage unit temperature has been recorded.

Field stated that storage areas that are not monitored could put vaccines in danger of being ineffective. Overall, Field told the Independent that the issues encountered during the study were problems that should have been corrected "many, many years ago."