Patients are being put at risk, the NHS regulator says
Patients leaving hospital may be being put at risk of harmful reactions to drugs due to poor communication between hospitals and GPs, a study says.
The Care Quality Commission found hospitals often failed to fully pass on details of medication after polling 280 GPs and visiting 12 NHS trusts.
The regulator said it meant GPs could end up prescribing incompatible drugs.
But the CQC said GPs were also at fault for not sharing data when patients were first admitted to hospital.
While nearly all surgeries provided medicines information to hospitals for non-emergency cases, a quarter were not systematically providing details on previous drug reactions, 14% on existing illnesses and 11% of known allergies, the report said.
However, when the CQC asked GP practices about the quality of information given by hospitals when they discharge patients, 81% said details of medicines was incomplete or inaccurate 'all of the time' or 'most of the time'.
Nearly half of doctors also complained that it took too long for hospital discharge summaries to arrive, meaning patients were seen without a full set of records.
The report said primary care trusts, which are responsible for local health services, needed to do more to monitor and encourage hospitals and GPs to ensure drug information is shared properly.
Prescribing errors and a failure to review medication after a patient leaves hospital are known to cause harm to patients every year.
Such errors and near-misses were the fourth most commonly reported issue to the National Patient Safety Agency during 2008.
One study has estimated that around 4% of all hospital admissions are due to mistakes with medicines that could have been prevented.
CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said: "It is important that basic systems to share essential patient details are working effectively to get the right information to clinicians at the right time to minimise risks.
"It is clear from this study that services have some way to go before this routinely happens in the way it should."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the findings would be studied carefully and warned any trusts failing to meet standards could face sanctions from the CQC.
She added: "We acknowledge there is more to do and will continue to strive to make services even safer."