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6,000 patients dead or seriously harmed after NHS mistakes

8 October 2009

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Mistakes by NHS staff over a six-month period resulted in almost 6,000 patients dying or coming to serious harm, figures have shown.

Overall, some 459,500 patient safety incidents were reported in England from 1 October 2008, to 31 March 2009, data from the National Patient Safety Agency showed. According to the NPSA, better reporting of errors could be a reason for the observed 12% increase in the figures compared with the previous six months.

A breakdown of the data indicated that in 66% of cases, no harm came to patients and in 26% of cases there was no harm inflicted.

However, on 7% of occasions, moderate to serious harm or death was caused to a patient. This relates to 34,238 cases, of which 5,717 saw patients dead or seriously harmed.

The most commonly reported incident was an accident involving the patient that could possibly have been prevented, which made up 32.8% of reports. This was followed by errors or near misses with treatments or procedures at 10%, and medication errors at 9%.

NPSA Chief Executive Martin Fletcher said: “National reporting and learning means that the lessons learnt from safety problems are not trapped within the walls of one facility but can be spread across the NHS to prevent similar events occurring.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009