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Posted 16 Oct 2014 in Open for better care

The national Open for better care campaign shifts its focus to medication safety today as part of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s drive to reduce harm from high-risk medicines. A key programme area for the Commission, the campaign’s focus on medication safety will run from today right through until the end of March 2015.

Involving patients and families as well as clinicians in primary, community and secondary care, the campaign aims to raise the awareness of the risk associated with these high-risk medications and promote ways to reduce the associated patient harm.

Whanganui District Health Board (DHB) patient safety and quality manager Lucy Dunlop says the group of medicines that cause the most harm and suffering to patients if errors occur are known as high-risk medicines.

“Medication errors and unfavourable drug reactions are a leading cause of patient harm in health care settings,” Mrs Dunlop says. “And given up to 60 percent of all adverse drug events are thought to be preventable, Whanganui DHB welcomes the increased focus and awareness the campaign brings.”

“As a DHB, we are always striving to improve the care we provide and the campaign is a timely reminder for us to concentrate on these high-risk medicines.

“Special attention is needed in all aspects of managing high-risk medicines - prescribing, dispensing, supplying, storing, administering and, importantly, ensuring everything is as it should be for the patient taking the medication.”

The annual cost of preventable adverse drug events in New Zealand is estimated to be as much as $158 million, resources that could be used for other services.

“The outcomes of patient harm are costly for everyone,” says Mrs Dunlop. “By preventing harm to patients we are able to provide more by not needing to divert much-needed resources away from other areas of care.”

The Whanganui DHB will highlight the issue of high-risk medications by adding a medication safety focus to their Patient Safety Week activities, 3–9 November.

Posters will be displayed around Wanganui Hospital for the length of the medication safety campaign.

The Commission's Open for better care campaign was originally launched in May 2013 by Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew with a focus on falls. For more information about medication safety and the Open for better care campaign in general, please visit