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Hospital staff knowledge of use of antibiotics in penicillin allergy: is there room for improvement?

By Lorraine Moore, Ian Nicholls, Neil Powell and Michael Wilcock



To evaluate the knowledge of hospital clinical staff on the safe use of antibiotics in penicillin allergy and to ascertain staff attitudes and beliefs towards penicillin-related medication errors.

Study design and subjects

A paper-based knowledge quiz was delivered to 106 clinical staff in early 2011, and 235 staff completed an electronic staff survey.


Across all staff undertaking the knowledge quiz a penicillin antibiotic, deemed unsafe in a penicillin allergic patient, would or may have been given in 7.3% of 742 instances. Meropenem or a cephalosporin would have been given in 36.8% of 318 instances. An antibiotic deemed safe would or may have been withheld in 11.2% of 742 instances. Two-thirds of respondents to the electronic survey agreed that a listing in the drug chart of penicillin antibiotics would be effective in preventing future errors. Just under 90% considered that misinformation or lack of knowledge on which antibiotics contain penicillin was an issue for some or most colleagues.


The prevention of further errors is likely to require a multifaceted approach involving education and materials to address a recognised knowledge gap among medical and nursing staff. Pharmacists are well placed to contribute to such a campaign.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11091668

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