Patients are being put at risk of serious infection because many nurses are not using intravenous drips properly, a report suggests.
Nurses are advised to make sure they follow the guidelines
The Royal College of Nursing said in some cases they may even be putting patients' lives at risk.
It says some nurses are using the wrong equipment or are failing to change devices often enough.
It has now published guidelines advising nurses on when and how to administer IV drips.
IV drips are administered to thousands of patients every day. They have a variety of uses, including administering blood, fluid and drugs.
The report says there are wide variations in the way IV drips are administered across the country.
In some cases, practices vary even on the same ward or in the same hospital.
It said in some hospitals a cannula or tube is changed every three days as recommended.
However, in others it may only be changed once a week. This can cause the patient discomfort but also increase their chances of catching an infection.
Lisa Dougherty, chair of the committee which drew up the new guidelines, said these variations were putting the health of patients at risk.
"Infusion therapy is not without risk and whilst life-threatening complications remain rare, other problems such as infection, inflammation and tissue damage may still occur.
"With even minor complications, patients can suffer a considerable amount of discomfort," she said.
"But by using the most up-to-date, research-based evidence, products and equipment, we can significantly reduce the risks and greatly improve the level of care and comfort we give patients."
Rose Wilkinson, RCN nursing advisor, called on nurses to make sure they are following the new guidelines.
"The standards published today are a must for everyone working in infusion therapy.
"They bridge the gap between theory and practice by giving clear answers to practical problems and step by step instructions to putting procedures in place.
"The RCN wants to see them implemented across the UK as a matter of urgently."
The National Patient Safety Agency welcomed the report.
A spokeswoman said work is underway to ensure nurses used IV drips properly.
"In May the NPSA launched the Infusion Pump Project, which looks to reduce the variety of infusion pumps in each hospital, improve their storage and improve training in the use of the devices for nurses," a spokeswoman said.