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Medical errors “affect thousands of patients each year”

14 April 2009

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Overworked medical staff are putting patients’ lives at risk after a study found 4,000 “avoidable” errors were made by NHS workers last year, it has been claimed.

Figures published by the Daily Mirror newspaper showed as many as 2,221 were classed as serious – resulting in deaths, injuries and patients being left in severe pain.

Some of the worst scenarios included doctors making the wrong diagnoses and prescribing dangerous doses of medication, as well as surgeons operating on the wrong person or part of the body.

Of the 172 NHS trusts that received Freedom of Information requests about Serious Untoward Incidents, only 97 responded. The paper revealed most refused to give details of the incidents, listing fatal errors as “unexplained deaths”.

The article looked at a study carried out in 2001 into primary care, which showed there were typically between five and 80 medical errors per 100,000 consultations, mostly relating to the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Royal College of Nursing General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said staff shortages had led to more errors, but all the mistakes were described as “avoidable” by the Patients’ Association.

The Department of Health said it was working with regulators to monitor improvements in patient safety.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Royal College of Nursing