A Patient Harmed Every 30 Minutes by 'Blunders'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 9, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Patient Harmed Every 30 Minutes by 'Blunders'


Byline: Mark Smith and Jacob Dirnhuber Reporters mark.smith@walesonline.co.uk

MORE than 100,000 patients have been injured or killed by medical "blunders" in the Welsh NHS since 2010, new figures have revealed.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that patients were injured on at least 102,807 occasions at Welsh hospitals, and an astonishing 1,742 of those led to major harm - or even death.

On average, one Welsh NHS patient was harmed every 30 minutes as a result of doctors or nurses misusing drugs or equipment, making mistakes over paperwork, or providing negligent treatment. Health Minister Mark Drakeford has defended the figures, insisting Wales has far more comprehensive patient safety procedures than those being introduced in England by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The seven Welsh health boards, which have each developed their own criteria for reporting incidents, say they are committed to saving lives and reducing harm and are encouraging "openness and transparency" for staff to report incidents. FOI requests were sent to the seven health boards in Wales, as well as the Cardiff-based Velindre NHS Trust, which provides services to cancer patients.

Although each organisation was able to respond to our request for safety data for the past five years, two health boards - Aneurin Bevan and Betsi Cadwaladr - were only able to provide data from 2011 and 2013 on.

The figures have led to calls for Welsh laws on accident reporting to be reformed.

Hugh Williams, deputy chief executive of the charity Action Against Medical Accidents, said: "When things go wrong it is essential there is an open culture where the matter is properly investigated and lessons can be learned.

"We believe a key component in achieving this is to implement a statutory requirement to tell patients or their families if they have been harmed in health care.

"After a long campaign this duty passed into law in England last year. It is hoped that a similar provision will be accepted in Wales."

The figures include 26 "never events" since 2012 - severe negligence incidents that NHS guidelines regard as "largely preventable" and that should never occur if correct measures have been taken.

These include incidents where a right-sided knee implant was fitted into a patient's left leg at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, a feeding tube was inserted into the lungs of a patient at Cardiff and Vale, and eight occasions where surgical equipment was accidentally left in a patient's body following surgery.

Mr Williams said: "It is of concern that one health board reported six never events in 2013-14.

"More needs to be done to eradicate these kind of mistakes once and for all."

In the past four financial years, Welsh NHS trusts paid out nearly PS210m in medical negligence compensation, enough to hire more than 9,000 new nurses, or 2,600 consultants.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg paid out a staggering PS45m over four years, the most of any health board in Wales. …

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