Unit 4 - Prescribing Partnerships

Risk Assessment and Management

The revised Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations came into force in 1999. The regulations extend employers' responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and their main aim is to improve health and safety management in the workplace.

However, as an employee it helps to have some understanding of risk assessment and risk management. In the case of prescribing nurses, this relates to the assessment of any risks within practice and involves identifying the hazards present and deciding the extent of the risk.

If there is a chance that something may cause harm, it is termed a hazard. It may be a particular way of working, such as lifting and carrying heavy objects, operating machines or coming into contact with a particular substance. A significant hazard in a practice situation is the patient. Patients may be violent, aggressive or verbally abusive, or they may carry out actions such as stealing prescription pads.

Link to another Unit

You will find more on the subject of security and safekeeping of prescription pads in the 'Prescription writing' section of Unit 5. Prescribing in Practice.

The extent of the harm that may be caused by the hazard is called the risk. The number of people that are affected by the risk is called the extent. Therefore, the probability that harm may occur, and to what extent, is encompassed in the term risk. An organisational risk management strategy should contain systems for incidence reporting, investigation and improving care by learning from the complaint. Risk management is also concerned with all aspects of patient safety and should be integrated with staff safety, complaints management, litigation and claims handling and environmental risk.

If hazards are identified, they must be managed in such a way as to minimise the risk involved. A main hazard in a practice is exposure to micro-organisms that have the potential to be hazardous to the health of any person. An example of such a hazard is a person's potential exposure to micro-organisms when testing urine or blood. However, if appropriate systems are in place, you will be protected against such exposure.

'Risk assessment is nothing more than a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm'
Health and Safety Executive (2003) Five Steps to Risk Assessment, HSE

Further Reading

Further reading

Duthie, R.B. (1988) Guidelines for Safe and Secure Handling of Medicines: A report to the secretary of state. London: The Stationery Office.

Reflective Activity

Reflective activity

Consider the systems in place in your clinical area to capture risk, with relevance to:

  • Patients
  • Carers
  • Prescribers
  • Environment

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