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Number of reported NHS incidents resulting in death or severe harm to patients has risen by a quarter since 2010 and now tops 10,000 a year

Statistics released by the NHS Commissioning Board show the number of patient safety incidents in England that resulted in death or severe harm, rose to 10,102 between April 2011 and March 2012. By comparison, the number was 7,867 between October 2009 and September 2010.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of the charity Action on Medical Accidents (AvMA), described the increase as “very worrying”. He thought some of the rise was due to better reporting, but said that could not entirely explain it. In previous years most incidents of such seriousness would have been reported.

Examples of incidents resulting in severe harm or death could include overdoses, giving people the wrong medication, operating on the wrong site and giving a patient the wrong type of blood.

A Department of Health spokesman emphasised that the most recent figure included – for the first time – suicides of people who had been in care. Without that, the number would have remained below 10,000, she said.

She said: “More reported deaths doesn’t mean more deaths or poorer care – it shows that the NHS is taking its responsibility to report incidents seriously. Evidence shows that trusts with higher reporting rates are likely to be safer for patients. We are determined to create a safer NHS and regular reporting is central to this. We expect all patients to receive high quality, safe and effective care.”

hether the increase in the figures indicates better reporting or is a reflection of a decrease in the standard of care being provided, it does indicate that over 10,000 events resulted in severe harm or death, which in itself is a worrying figure. That is the figure for the incidents that treatment providers chose to investigate. Many other events do not result in this type of investigation.

If you or a family member has suffered a serious injury which you suspect was due to negligent medical treatment and you wish to discuss your options, please contact a member of our medical negligence team. Please be aware that strict time limits apply to such claims, which, if missed could result in you losing the right to claim compensation. Therefore, it is important that you investigate the possibility of a claim as soon as possible.

Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.

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