Aim: To describe insulin prescribing practice in National Health Service hospitals in the UK and the current use of interventions and strategies to reduce insulin prescribing errors.
Methods: We sent a cross-sectional questionnaire to chief pharmacists in all National Health Service hospital trusts in the UK in January 2019. Questions concerned the use and functionality of electronic and paper systems used to prescribe subcutaneous insulin, along with features and interventions designed to reduce insulin prescribing errors.
Results: Ninety-five hospital trusts responded (54%). Electronic prescribing of insulin was reported in 40% of hospitals, most of which were teaching hospitals in England. We found a wide variation in the functionality of both electronic prescribing and paper-based systems to enable the safe prescribing of insulin for inpatients. The availability of specialist diabetes pharmacists to support the safe prescribing of insulin was low (29%), but was positively associated with the use of a greater number of insulin prescribing error reduction strategies (P=0.002). The use of specific interventions to improve insulin prescribing quality (e.g. self-administration policies) varied greatly between respondent hospitals.
Conclusions: There is potential to optimize the functionality of both electronic and paper-based prescribing systems to improve the safe prescribing of insulin in hospitals in the UK. The wide variation in the use of insulin error reduction strategies may be improved by the availability of specialist diabetes pharmacists who can support the implementation of insulin-prescribing interventions.