One In Five Hospitals 'Covering Up Mistakes'

A Fifth of Hospital Trusts in England May Be Covering Up Mistakes, A Government Review Suggests


Mistakes may be being concealed by around one in five hospital trusts in England, a new report has indicated.

A government review of incident reporting found that the number of safety incidents being registered is unusually low at 29 out of 141 trusts.

This is being viewed by many as a sign that there is a poor safety culture within these particular organisations.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, health secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted that the government is not aiming to humiliate any NHS trusts.

However, he said patients are entitled to know if a hospital "has a problem with its reporting culture".

"The NHS is leading the world in achieving new safety standards but the battle to reduce avoidable harm is constant," he commented.

"Unsafe care causes immeasurable harm to patients and their families, and also costs the NHS millions in litigation claims.

Chief executive of Salford Royal Hospital Sir David Dalton, who is heading up the NHS's Sign up to Safety campaign, acknowledged that risk is often inherent in healthcare and that "harm still happens" even despite the best efforts of healthcare professionals.

However, he said that while some is unavoidable, it can be prevented most of the time.

Martin Bromley, founder of the Clinical Human Factors Group, added that it is very important to find out why certain organisations are not reporting safety incidents.

He said it is necessary to understand their reasoning, as well as their cultures and what processes they have in place that might stand in the way of openness and transparency.

Mr Bromley stated that this would be much more constructive and beneficial than only going as far as naming and shaming NHS trusts that are failing to lift the lid on safety incidents.

He added that some of the organisations that are falling short might be displaying signs of "unconscious incompetence", since they do not understand how to develop a genuine culture of safety throughout their hospitals.

Expert Opinion
These figures clearly raise some significant concerns, specifically regarding the reasons why many trusts do not appear to be reporting safety incidents. It is vital that these findings are thoroughly investigated, with a view to understanding the trends which could have led to this becoming the case.

"Through our work, we have come to understand that mistakes can and do happen during the course of care – with this having a huge impact not only on victims, but also their families and loved ones. The only way in which improvements can be made to prevent future problems is to ensure information is shared and lessons are learned.

"Having access to accurate, high quality data is central to this – so it is imperative that steps are taken to ensure everyone in the NHS is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to reporting patient safety incidents."
Mandy Luckman, Partner