Whilst mistakes are very rare, dispensing errors such as giving the wrong directions on the use of a medication, dispensing the wrong drug, or the wrong dose have the potential to harm patients.

Hannah Family, in the second year of her PhD studies at the University’s Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, will be working in a research team led by Dr Jane Sutton and supported by Professor Marjorie Weiss.

The researchers will use the funding from the Pharmaceutical Trust for Charitable & Educational Objects (PTECO) to carry out a simulated study in which community pharmacists are asked to perform routine pharmacy tasks whilst their performance and their mental workload are measured.

Initially local community pharmacists will be invited to take part in the study which will later be extended to other parts of the UK. The research team hopes that gaining a better understanding of why dispensing errors occur will help prevent them from happening in the future.

Hannah explained: “The workload of community pharmacists is continually growing – they are dispensing increasing numbers of medications and are now taking on new and expanded roles in addition to their traditional role.

“Community pharmacies are part of an increasingly competitive business environment and this has led to concerns that under greater pressure at work pharmacists may be more susceptible to dispensing errors.

“We know from research in other industries that when mental workload is too high or too low this can be the result.

“Mental workload levels can be affected by the environment in which we are carrying out a task, and by our knowledge and skills for the task. So it was essential in this project that we were able to work with pharmacists in practice.”

Dr Sutton added: “We are extremely proud that Hannah has been given this award whilst still a PhD student. It is testament to her ability and perseverance that the PTECO has made this funding available.

“Without this award Hannah would have had to restrict her research to pharmacy students, but she will now be able to take the research out into community pharmacies ensuring the results can be meaningfully translated into practice.”

The results of this research will be used to inform future community pharmacy policies and procedures to improve patient safety and community pharmacists’ experience at work.

The team will be uploading information and progress updates on the study at: http://errorgirl.com