A third of patients have unnecessary tubes (cannulae) inserted when they are in hospital, needlessly exposing them to serious complications such as infection and blood clots, research launched at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester has shown.

Pharmacy researchers from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen also showed that in 71% of patient records there was no documentation of cannula insertion and in 57%, no documentation of cannula removal.

Complications associated with intravenous (IV) cannula use include problems with veins (phlebitis), leakage of drugs into tissues around the site of the tube (extravasations), serious infection and blood clots.

91% of patients had an IV cannula inserted during their hospital stay. They are often used for patients who are vomiting, fasting or who are unconscious, to ensure that they receive the appropriate drugs and fluids. In many UK hospitals, it has become common practice to insert an IV cannula when the patient is admitted, irrespective of need.

Head researcher, Dr Yash Kumarasamy, said: "We would like to see the introduction of a formal procedure under which hospital pharmacists review patients and their medications and make recommendations to the treatment team about whether or not a cannula is needed."

About the British Pharmaceutical Conference 2008 (BPC)

BPC 2008: Pharmacy in the 21st Century: Adding years to life and life to years. In 2008, as the NHS marks its 60th anniversary year, BPC will examine how pharmacy and the pharmaceutical services are helping to add years to life and life to the year of the UK population. The profession of pharmacy plays an important role in meeting the healthcare challenges associated with the UK's ageing population.

How can pharmacists contribute to caring for the population as well as ensuring quality of life? Increasingly, scientists and practitioners have to consider the cost implications of this conundrum, and the evidence base for all interventions is becoming of paramount importance: BPC 2008 will debate these issues and open up discussion on them.

Visit: http://www.bpc2008.org/

The main sponsors of BPC 2008 are: Boots The Chemists (Lead Sponsor), AstraZeneca (Associate Sponsor and BPC-PJ Careers Forum Platinum Sponsor), Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) (Associate Sponsor) and GSK (BPC-PJ Careers Forum Platinum Sponsor).

Research released at BPC is published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice (IJPP).