We all know that drug administration error is the nightmare of any registered nurse in charge of patients. I see in Glasgow that Ward sisters are now wearing red sweat shirts while doing the drug round to warn other staff not to distract them while dispensing medications at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow (1).

While innovative, one wonders what the patients think about it. While working as a trainee psychiatric nurse at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital in the mid eighties, I came across some research on colour and its effects on patients by Professor Annie Altschul, Professor of Nursing at Edinburgh University. For psychiatric patients on acute admission wards green was found to be the most restful and therapeutic colour while red signalled danger and distress. I hope the sight of a large red-clad nurse looming towards them doesn’t make some of the patients want to jump out of bed and flee for their lives!

The best way of reducing drug error is the introduction of ePrescribing, or as the Americans term it, computerised physician order entry. Using technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and wand scanners, coupled with the electronic care record, the identity of the patient and their match to the prescribed dose of the right drug can be ascertained by scanning bar codes or RFID tags. Ann Slee, Director of Pharmaceutical Services at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital is now national clinical lead at NHS Connecting for Health for a large ePrescribing programme to introduce this change nationally in England. It is time for the nursing profession to get behind her and lead in the introduction of ePrescribing in the NHS to reduce avoidable prescribing and drug administration error. The answer is not more red sweat shirts!

(1) HSJ, pp 8, 22nd February, 2007: