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Incident and complaint reporting: the benefits

3 December 2010

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With primary care reform and the increased pressure of regulation soon to come into play, general practices should now ensure they embrace complaint and incident reporting, says Jonathan Hazan, Chief Executive of Datix Ltd

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said that general practice needs to improve its level of incident reporting. In its first report to parliament earlier in 2010, the CQC stated:

“It is crucial that organisations report their mistakes or near misses (called “incidents”) so that they can learn and put things right. Despite national progress, the reporting rate of incidents varies significantly across organisations. Although 90% of patient contact takes place at GP practices, only 3,417 incidents were reported in the year to July 2009, compared to 693,700 from hospitals.”

It is clear that the CQC will be focusing on this area and it has announced that the mandatory reporting of incidents will be extended to GP practices within the next two years. The pressure of regulation will no doubt increase the level of incident reporting that occurs. Additionally, under the changes envisaged within the white paper Equity and Excellence – Liberating the NHS, there are other compelling reasons for GPs and commissioning consortia to go further in developing a culture and practice of incident reporting.

One reason is the role that incident and risk managementinformation can play in the process of commissioning local services. As this responsibility shifts from primary care trusts (many of which are currently capturing and measuring incident reporting data) to embryonic GP consortia, good-quality performance data will become increasingly important. When defining a commissioning strategy, the reporting and management of incidents, together with the learning derived from them, are
important indicators.

Another reason is the value of incident reporting in enabling quality improvement through shared learning. Regular reporting of incidents and complaints followed by detailed investigations and action plans can contribute to the efficiency of an organisation. This in turn will improve service quality and reduce operational overheads.

For newly formed GP consortia, a culture of incident reporting, analysis and learning will be vital. As statutory bodies, consortia will be under financial and legal scrutiny and a structured approach to managing incidents and risk will be a crucial contributor to good governance.

Finally, the most obvious reason for GPs and commissioning consortia to embrace incident reporting is that it can lead to improvements in patient safety. In a recent survey carried out by EHI on the impact of the white paper, patient care was highlighted as a major concern.

One of the key findings was that more than 50% believed it would lead to worse patient care, with 25% predicting that the quality and safety of care would deteriorate greatly.

During a time of organisational disruption, the likelihood of things going wrong may well increase. A well-implemented and committed programme of incident and complaint handling can change the risk profile of the organisation, providing an early warning of more serious problems and reassuring patients and staff that the lessons of incidents and complaints will not be lost.

Datix is the most widely used incident reporting and risk management system in the UK, and today more than 70% of NHS trusts use our software. We aim to help healthcare organisations build a culture that drives excellence in patient safety and we are committed to extending this to the new GP consortia as they become established. If you would like further information please contact: [email protected] or go to:

Datix Ltd
Melbury House
51 Wimbledon Hill Road
London SW19 7QW
E: [email protected]