NHS Hospitals are breaking the law by failing to report incidents that result in severe harm to patients a charity has warned. Peter Walsh, chief executive of the charity Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA), said many were failing to own up to such incidents despite a law that had been in force since April 2010, requiring them to do so.
He was commenting on National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) figures, showing an 8.5 per cent increase in the total number of reported incidents in the NHS in England, between April to September 2010 and October to March 2011.
The vast majority of such incidents result in “no harm” (69 per cent), “low harm” (24), or “moderate harm” (six).
However, one per cent result in “death or severe harm”. Since April 2010, health trusts have had to report these incidents.
Between the two most recent six-monthly periods for which data are available, the number of such reported incidents rose by 13 per cent – from 4,358 to 5,012.
While significant, Mr Walsh believed if all trusts were reporting as they should, the rise would be larger still.
He said: “Given that there was a new set of rules that came in, in April 2010, that made it a statutory requirement for trusts to report incidents that cause severe harm or death, we would have expected a bigger increase.
“So we think some trusts might be holding back on reporting incidents that caused severe harm.”
He added: “We think work is needed looking at why trusts do not seem to be reporting at a rate we would expect.”
Individual cases that were known through clinical negligence claims should be checked back, to see if trusts had reported them to the NPSA, he recommended.
A spokesman for the NPSA said that overall new figures reflected an improving culture of reporting incidents in NHS trusts.
Sarndrah Horsfall, chief executive of the NPSA, said: “Identifying patient safety incidents and ensuring they are reported and analysed is at the heart of reducing risk in healthcare.
“NHS organisations should use the data and review the tools, guidance and support available to them. This will ensure patient safety incidents continue to be reported and learned from, strengthening the patient safety culture across all levels of the NHS.”