Skip to main content

Medical Errors

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 8 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many patients underwent the wrong procedures due to medical errors in each of the last 10 years; (75029)

(2) how many patients died due to medical errors in hospitals in each of the last 10 years.

The Department does not centrally collect data on the number of patients who underwent the wrong procedures or died due to medical errors in hospitals.

The Government are, however, concerned about national health service patients affected by adverse events and that is why it established the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) in July 2001 and asked it to set up a national reporting and learning system (NRLS) for patient safety incidents. This system is now in place across the NHS and all trusts have been connected and reporting to the system from late 2005. Data collected by the NPSA are based on incidents reported by NHS staff.

From November 2003 to the end of May 2006 there were 2,575 incidents reported as wrong or inappropriate treatment or procedure in the surgical and anaesthetic specialties. In 1,918 cases (74.5 per cent.), there was no reported harm to the patient, in 437 cases (17 per cent.) low harm, 179 cases (7 per cent.) moderate harm, 35 cases (1.4 per cent.) severe harm and in six cases (0.2 per cent.) it was reported that the patient died.

Data on deaths due to medical errors in acute hospitals over the last 10 years is not available. In July 2005, the NPSA published “Building a memory: preventing harm, reducing risks and improving patient safety. The first report of the National Reporting and Learning System and the Patient Safety Observatory”. At the time of publication, the NPSA estimated that the annual figures for NHS acute hospitals in England would be in the order of 840 patient safety incident-related deaths from 572,000 reported incidents from acute hospitals each year in England. The estimate was derived from 18 acute hospitals consistently reporting to the NPSA from October to December 2004 and was adjusted for variations in reporting, as well as deaths which had been incorrectly labelled as patient safety incidents. The estimates cover all patient safety incident- related deaths including those due to medical errors in acute hospitals.

The NPSA is due to publish a second report with its latest analysis of all patient safety incidents shortly.