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National audit of antidote stocking in UK emergency departments


Background Previous audits of antidote stocking in UK hospitals have demonstrated variable but improving compliance with joint Royal College of Emergency Medicine and National Poisons Information Service guidance on antidote availability in emergency departments. The guidance was updated in 2017.

Aim To provide a current picture of compliance with the 2017 antidote guidance and compare this to previous audits.

Methods Questionnaires were distributed to all hospitals in the UK with an emergency department via medicines information and regional pharmacy procurement networks. Data were collected on availability and stock levels of category A (immediately available) and category B (available within 1 hour) antidotes. Additionally, data were collected on holdings of category C (held supra-regionally) antidotes and arrangements for sourcing these if not stocked locally.

Results 233 hospitals were surveyed and 178 replies (76.4%) were received. There were 73 hospitals (41.7%) fully compliant with guidance for category A, 34 hospitals (19.1%) for category B and 18 hospitals (10.1%) for both categories A and B antidotes. Few hospitals stocked category C antidotes (1.1%–34.8%). Evidence of formalised regional holding arrangements for category C antidotes, as advised in the guidance, was noted in some areas but many regions remain without such agreements.

Conclusions Most hospitals remain not fully compliant with stocking recommendations for categories A and B antidotes, with limited recent improvement. Category C antidotes are stocked by few hospitals although awareness of where these can be sourced appears to be increasing. Emergency departments should review their antidote stocking arrangements to ensure compliance with guidance. Formal arrangements for stocking of the more rarely used category C antidotes at a regional level are also required, where not already in existence, in order to assure their availability in an equitable way across the country.

  • accident & emergency medicine
  • audit
  • clinical pharmacy
  • protocols & guidelines
  • audit, self-inspection

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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