10% of NHS patients admitted to hospital “suffer some form of harm”

July 6, 2009 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

nhs

A committee of MPs has called for urgent action on patient safety in the NHS.

The Health Committee said services “are not safe enough yet.”

Chairman of the Committee, Kevin Barron MP, said:

“We are saddened by the avoidable harm that so many patients suffer.

“Our report highlights many areas where urgent action is required, in some cases where it is a life or death situation, and we urge the Government to ensure that everyone in the NHS realises that avoiding harm to patients must be their top priority.”

NHS services are used by around a million people every 36 hours.

“However, as in every other healthcare system, not all care is as safe as it could be and some patients are harmed, sometimes seriously, even fatally,” the committee said.

“Reviews of patients’ case notes indicates that in the NHS and in other healthcare systems as many as 10% of patients admitted to hospital suffer some form of harm, much of which is avoidable.

“Tens of thousands of patients suffer unnecessary harm each year and there is a huge cost to the NHS in consequence.

“Judging the overall effectiveness of patient safety policy is made difficult because of the failure by the Department of Health (DH) to collect adequate data.

“Nevertheless, it is apparent that, for all the policy innovations of the past decade, there has been insufficient progress in making services safer.

“The perception that this is so is strengthened by the recent cases of disastrously unsafe care that have come to light in a small number of Trusts, such as Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

“Patient safety is a multifaceted issue that touches on many aspects of the NHS and we have examined in some detail what we regard as the most important of these.

“We have concluded that there are significant deficiencies in current policy. We recommend several changes that need to be made in order for there to be further progress in tackling unsafe care.”

The committee said that harmed patients and their families or carers are entitled to receive information, an explanation, an apology and an undertaking that the harm will not be repeated.

“Too often, however, this does not occur.

“Recent changes to the complaints system are unlikely to improve how the NHS treats complainants.

“Patient Advice and Liaison Services should be provided independently of the NHS organisations to which they relate; and the Independent Review stage of the complaints process should be reinstated.

“Harmed patients are currently forced to endure often lengthy and distressing litigation to obtain justice and compensation.

“At the same time, NHS organisations are obliged to spend considerable sums on legal costs and are encouraged to be defensive when harm occurs.

“Three years ago, Parliament passed the legislation which enabled the DH to introduce an NHS Redress Scheme, which would change this situation, removing the need for litigation in many cases.

“However, the DH still has not implemented the Redress Scheme and has no timetable for doing so, which we find appalling.”

The report recommends:

* Boards and senior management make patient safety the top priority

* Commissioning, performance management and regulation arrangements must be clarified and rationalised to become more effective

* Patient harm rates must be measured by regular reviews of samples of patients’ case notes

* The introduction without delay of the NHS Redress Scheme

* Quick implementation of proven technologies which can improve safety

* Ensuring harmed patients and their families always receive full and frank information about incidents of harm

* Enabling front-line NHS staff to use their initiative to improve patient safety

* Better and more explicit patient safety education for healthcare workers

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