Increase in Patient Deaths Because of Medical Errors

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

Increase in Patient Deaths Because of Medical Errors


Byline: Madeleine Brindley Health Editor

THE number of patients dying as a result of medical mistakes has increased by50%within three years, figures reveal today.

A Freedom of Information request has found that 191 patients died in 2007-08 as a result of medical errors, accidents and even abuse by staff. In 2005-06 there were 129 deaths in Wales.

The number of incidents over the last three years involving patient safety also doubled, from 28,000 to 56,000.

Among the incidents which resulted in a patient death, were 39 cases of "self-harming behaviour" last year and 20 attributed to treatment or a procedure.

Peter Black, the Welsh Liberal Democrats health spokesman, said this increase in patient deaths was "unacceptable".

"The rise in deaths due to errors within the NHS is shocking given that many of these deaths are avoidable," he said.

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said the figures needed to be looked at in context and that the "vast majority of patients receive high-quality, safe and effective treatment".

Mr Black said, "Across all areas of the NHS, from admission, clinical assessments, implementation of care to treatment and medication, the number of incidents and deaths has increased over the last three years.

"While it's inevitable that some patients die in hospitals, it's unacceptable that patients die due to NHS error.

"Patients in Wales need to be treated in safe and secure NHS departments.

"Although we accept that a lot of incidents cannot be avoided, many can, and there needs to be better management and control to reduce the number of accidents and deaths.

"The Labour-Plaid Government needs to get its act together and ensure that Wales has a decent healthcare system.

"Patient safety and welfare is paramount and I will be raising these issues with the Health Minister urgently."

Richard Jones, deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: "There are measures that can be put in place to manage and control human error and ensure that mistakes are kept to a minimum.

"Most notably there needs to be sufficient numbers of nursing staff available to care for patients.

"Research has shown a direct link between poor staffing in clinical areas and errors made in patient care. Risk assessments should always be carried out to identify potential problems. …

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