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Death by medical error risk

7th November 2006

02082006_MRSA1.jpgPatients face a one in 300 risk of dying in hospital due to a medical error, England's most senior medic has warned.

It means dying as a result of a medical mistake or misjudgment is 33,000 times higher than dying in an air crash.

This was the somber message from chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, as he highlighted the World Health Organisation’s campaign to improve patient safety by minimising hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

Up to 10 per cent of patients admitted to hospitals contract one or more infections, causing at least 5,000 deaths in England each year. Figures for 2004 show 1,300 people died of the bug Clostridium difficile and 360 of MRSA after attending hospital in England.

But preventable deaths were about more than improving hygiene, he said. Surgery needed to be more standardised, particularly where there was a high risk of complication.

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