Insulin is a high risk medicine and it is important to use it safely
Insulin is frequently included in the list of top ten high alert medicines worldwide. It is a high risk medication in that it has the potential to cause significant harm even when used as intended. This section focuses on improving the safe use of insulin.
The National Reporting and Learning Service identified between a total of 15,227 incidents between 2003 and 2009 from the NHS in England and Wales. The majority (93%) of incident reports had reported clinical outcomes of low or no harm. However, there were 17 incidents with fatal and severe outcomes and 972 incidents of moderate harm 1.
Data from the National Patient Safety Agency rapid response report on reducing harm related to insulin is summarised in the BMJ article Safer administration of insulin: summary of a safety report from the National Patient Safety Agency. The article covers key learning points for safe prescribing and administration of insulin and recommends future use of insulin syringes.
Information for patients
The NPSA and Diabetes Working Group have developed a leaflet for patients with information about using insulin safely entitled The Safe Use of Insulin and you. It describes four key areas for safety: right insulin, right way of administration, right dose and right time of doses.
NHS Diabetes have produced four e-learning modules about safer use of insulin which cover high risk areas of insulin management such as the use of intravenous insulin infusions and management of hypoglycaemia.
- Patient Safety First. 'How to' guide for reducing harm from insulin in hospitals. 2010.