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National audit of antidote stocking in UK emergency departments
  1. James T Harnett1,
  2. Sheena Vithlani2,
  3. Shabnam Sobhdam2,
  4. James Kent3,
  5. Lindsay McClure4,
  6. Simon HL Thomas5,6,
  7. Paul I Dargan1,7
  1. 1Department of Clinical Toxicology, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2London Medicines Information Service, London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  3. 3NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service, UK
  4. 4NHS National Procurement, Edinburgh, UK
  5. 5National Poisons Information Service (Newcastle Unit), Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, Newcastle, UK
  6. 6Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
  7. 7Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr James T Harnett, Clinical Toxicology, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London SE1 7EH, UK; j.harnett{at}


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

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