Page last updated at 23:59 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

'Make hospitals admit error' call

BY Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Patients in a hospital
NHS trusts are encouraged to report incidents that put patients at risk

The system for hospitals to report errors in the care of patients should be mandatory, a patients' group says.

The Patients Association said that in the wake of the highly-critical report on Stafford Hospital, the time had come for the end to the voluntary system.

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) reporting system depends on NHS trusts owning up to mistakes.

Regulators have already said the health service is not doing enough in reporting patient safety incidents.

The NPSA has been collecting data since 2003 in a bid to help the heath service learn from its mistakes.

I think the Stafford report showed that it is time to get tough on this
Michael Summers, of the Patients Association

In the first year, NHS trusts were only reporting just over 100 errors every three months, but that has now increased to 250,000.

However, despite the improvement the agency is still unable to compare trusts' performance because of suspicions of under-reporting.

On top of that, 32 of the 391 NHS organisations in England and Wales did not submit any incidents or enough to be included in the latest data.

The situation prompted the Healthcare Commission to call for an improvement from NHS trusts earlier this month.

And now the Patients Association says it is time to force the NHS to comply.

Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: "I think the Stafford report showed that it is time to get tough on this. Hospitals need to be forced to report mistakes if we are going to protect patients."

'Appalling'

On Tuesday, a report by the Healthcare Commission branded care at the Stafford Hospital "appalling".

It said there were deficiencies at "virtually every stage" of emergency care and managers pursued targets to the detriment of patient care.

The regulator said that between 2005 and 2008 there were 400 "excess" deaths at the hospital - although it was impossible to say whether these had all been caused by bad care.

Kevin Barron, chairman of the House of Commons Health Committee, which is currently carrying out an investigation into patient safety, said the issue of making reporting mandatory was on the agenda.

"We are still taking evidence so I don't want to say what should happen, but it is one of the things we are looking at."

A spokeswoman for the NPSA said it was not up to the agency to decide whether reporting should be made mandatory.

But she added: "I think, for a voluntary system, we have a successful system operating."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Mandatory reporting is something that we are keeping under review.

"The NPSA is working with us and many other stakeholders to agree a single central definition and criteria for reporting serious patient safety incidents.

"We are also currently consulting on regulations for a new registration framework for all providers of health and adult social care that will be introduced next year.

"This new framework is able to look at the provision of information to secure patients' health, safety and welfare and to ensure that services are of the appropriate quality."

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SEE ALSO
Failing hospital 'caused deaths'
17 Mar 09 |  Staffordshire

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