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Avoidable deaths and unacceptable rise in NHS incidents - Peter Black

October 7, 2009 12:14 PM

Government health statistics released today show that the number of incidents reported in Welsh NHS has risen to its highest point since incident reporting in the NHS was set up back in 2003. The last reporting quarter revealed the biggest increase of reported incidents (8,527) between quarters.

Between October 2008 and March 2009, 26,949 incidents in Wales were reported with 68% showing no harm to patient, 22% as low harm, 8% as moderate harm and 2% (538) as death or severe harm.

Examples of death or severe harm incidents include:

* Lack of epidural pump led to periarrest situation resulting in death of patient. * Old needle and giving set had been left in patient over night resulted in severe harm. * Failure of 2 possibly 3 pacing boxes (electrical current to artificially produce a heartbeat) lead to the death of a patient.

Peter Black, Welsh Lib Dem Shadow Health Minister said:

"It's very worrying that since the end of 2008 we've seen a sharp rise in the number of incidents reported in the NHS in Wales. Prior to the end of 2008, the figure had been coming down. What is even more disturbing is the high number of patients dying from incidents in the Welsh NHS. Incidents like this can be avoided through better reporting practices.

"The Labour-Plaid government will defend these stats and say that the reason for the increase is because of greater awareness of reporting and openness among staff, however the statistics show that the number of reported incidents had been coming down. What is more disturbing is that we do not know of the incidents that have not been reported.

"Accidents make up the highest percentage of these 'incidents' and it is reasonable to assume that some of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented if our hospitals were in a better state. Earlier this year, the Welsh Liberal Democrats discovered that the total repair bill for the Welsh NHS is a massive £460 million and there is a total of £75 million of 'high risk' maintenance currently awaiting attention.

"We need to be reassured that lessons are being learnt from all these incidents, whether the victims are patients or staff. There must be an open and compulsory reporting method and a proper health and safety assessment after any major incident. If we do not have transparency and accountability then we will not get improvement.

Stats can be found here and here