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Rise in reported patient safety incidents is a good sign says NHS England

8.9% rise in reported NHS safety incidents last year to 725,314

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 02 May 2014

A rise of 8.9% in the number of reported patient safety incidents in the NHS has been welcomed by NHS England as a sign that honest incident reporting is improving.

New six-monthly patient safety incident data published by NHS England showed that the NHS was continuing to get better at recognising and reporting patient safety incidents, said the body.

The data on patient safety incidents reported to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) between 1 April and 30 September 2013, showed there were 725,314 incidents in England in that six-month period reported to the system – 8.9% more than in the same period in the previous year.

The NRLS is a voluntary scheme for reporting patient safety incidents, and therefore does not provide the definitive number of patient safety incidents occurring in the NHS.

Primary care organisations, acute hospitals, mental health services, community trusts, and ambulance services report incidents to the NRLS where any patient could have been harmed or has suffered any level of harm.

Of the incidents reported, 67.7% caused no harm, while 25.7% were reported as causing low harm, meaning the patient required increased observation or minor treatment as a result of the incident.

Only 6% were recorded as causing moderate harm, meaning there were 43,518 incidents of patients suffering “significant but not permanent harm”, requiring increased treatment. The proportion of incidents resulting in severe harm or death was less than 1% of all incidents reported.

The top four most commonly reported types of incident were patient accidents (21.4%), implementation of care and ongoing monitoring/review incidents (11.5%), treatment/procedure incidents (11%), and medication incidents (10.7%).

NHS England said the increase in reporting helped to protect patients from avoidable harm by increasing opportunities to learn from situations in which things went wrong and allowed NHS England to identify and take action to prevent emerging patterns of incidents on a national level via patient safety alerts.

Locally, incident reporting let clinicians learn from their own and others’ services about why patient safety incidents happened, so they could act to prevent their own patients being placed at similar risks.

Dr Mike Durkin, NHS England director of patient safety, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see more and more incidents being reported as this demonstrates that not only doctors, nurses, midwives but all NHS staff feel increasingly comfortable with speaking openly about mistakes and learning from error.

“Incident reporting is our best indicator of whether an organisation’s culture is becoming more open and transparent. The incidents reported to the NRLS are key to patient safety as they enable us to identify problems nationally and take action to alert the NHS to emerging risks.”

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