Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blunders by NHS kill thousands of patients a year

Front page of Sunday Telegraph, 27 August 2006.

Quotes data from National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) - "a total of 2,159 died after serious lapses in care by hospitals, family doctors' surgeries, ambulance trusts and in community and mental health care last year. A further 4,529 patients suffered severe harm because of avoidable mistakes." This is from a total of 500,000 reported patient safety incidents.

Apparently 165,135 people suffered harm while in NHS care. Of these
20,000 vulnerable patients managed to harm themselves whilst in care, with an unknown number committing suicide.
50,000 incidents involved patients being given the wrong medication
49,000 suffered errors during operations or other treatments
19,749 involved medical device failures
6,000 infection control incidents were reported.

We have to accept there will be a significant degree of under-reporting. The trouble is the NPSA do not seem to have any idea of what causes the errors, or make any evaluation of whether the risk is tolerable or not. It is a tragedy that people are harmed whilst in health care, but it will always happen. To evaluate the risk we need to at least have some understanding of what would happen if treatment had not been provided.

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