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Friday 28th October 2016

Patient blunders

6th July 2006

One in 10 patients admitted to NHS hospitals is accidentally harmed, according to a new report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Almost a million patients are victims of NHS mistakes or near-misses every year, but the true figure could be far higher due to under-reporting.  Incidents ranged from medication errors to equipment defects and patient accidents.

The committee found big differences between similarly-sized trusts in the number of incidents - from a few to many thousands – which may suggests many staff are discouraged from reporting. The Commons Public Accounts Committee estimates there could be almost one-quarter of a million more incidents going unreported each year, but says the overall number could be halved if the NHS learned lesions from previous incidents and acted more quickly on safety alerts.

PAC chairman Edward Leigh described the statistics as terrifying and said more needed to be done to cut the number of accidents. He criticized trusts for failing to tell patients when things go wrong; only a quarter routinely tell patients.

He said the National Patient Safety Agency offered poor value to tax payers and had been several years late in setting up a national reporting system.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), said 300,000 reports of hospital-acquired infections each year, including MRSA were in addition to those in the report.

Safety alerts issued to trusts were not always complied with - though trusts claim they are, said the PAC.

Health Minister Andy Burnham said only a small number of errors led to serious consequences, but warned mistakes were unavoidable in a modern, complex health service. He added that the UK figures are in line with worldwide rates.


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