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No Surprise says lawyer as report shows 1 in 10 patients at risk in hospital


One of the UK's leading Clinical Negligence lawyers has expressed concern, but not surprise, following the publication of research which suggests that one in 10 patients is harmed while in hospital.

The research carried out by the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York reviewed notes of 1,006 patients admitted to one large teaching hospital in the north of England between January and May 2004, and found that between 8% and 10% had been harmed because of the care they received. The research also found that up to around half of the incidents could have been prevented.

Patients undergoing surgery were most likely to be harmed but other problems included falls, burns and complications leading to heart attacks.

David Body, Head of Medical Law and Patients Rights at law firm Irwin Mitchell, the largest personal injury practice in the UK, said "This report should make the alarm bells ring even louder than they already are in the ears of those in charge of the NHS; however I fear that this report will not make hospital care any safer."

"We have long suggested that in order to protect patients from harm the NHS must adopt some of the practices of the aviation industry when it comes to the safety of those who use their services. These include a reliable and centralised process which not only evaluates risk but eliminates it as well.

Mr Body continued "What we really need to know is, who is taking responsibility for learning lessons from the adverse events already reported that result in compensation being paid to victims."

The authors of the report concluded: "This study confirms that adverse events are common, serious and potentially preventable source of harm to patients in NHS hospitals.
"In the light of the findings from this study and (previous UK research), it is now clear that around 8-10% of patients in NHS hospitals may experience some kind of adverse events, of which between 30% and 55% are to some extent preventable."

Data from the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has shown there were more than 700,000 "patient safety incidents" in the NHS in 2006/07.

In total, 6,558 incidents resulted in severe harm and another 40,665 caused moderate harm to patients.
There were a total of 2,929 deaths due to patient safety incidents.