Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 12:08 UK

NHS 'must cut child care errors'

Sick child
The NHS has been told to improve care being given to children

The NHS must cut down on the number of errors made while treating children, a safety watchdog says.

The National Patient Safety Agency data showed that last year there were over 70 deaths and 20,000 cases of harm in which a lapse in care contributed.

The agency said the figures for the under 18s were too high and standards needed to improve.

Mistakes made with medication was the most common error after being cited in 16% of cases.

The NPSA said a major part of the problem was the lack of availability of medicines in child doses.

The majority of patient safety incidents involving children were reported to have resulted in no harm or low harm
Dr Kevin Cleary, of the National Patient Safety Agency

It said nurses often had to cut, crush and dissolve adult tablets and then make a difficult calculation of the dose needed by the child according to its weight.

But mistakes with hospital transfer, discharge or incorrect treatment were also noted.

In one of the examples cited, a child admitted to hospital with severe infection following chicken pox was not recognised to be seriously ill until it was too late and the child had died.

Other examples given were where children slipped or fell, as well as more than 200 cases of abuse.

In total, more than 60,000 lapses in care were reported, including those that did not result in any harm.

However, the true figure is likely to be much higher, as the reporting scheme is only voluntary and just 4% of all incidents recorded were from general practice despite family doctors seeing three times as many children as hospitals.


The under-fours were particularly vulnerable as they represented the most at-risk age group behind the over 85s.

In response, the watchdog has produced a good practice guide explaining what NHS trusts can do to tackle the problem, including tips on training, prescribing and communication.

Dr Kevin Cleary, the NPSA's medical director, said: "The majority of patient safety incidents involving children were reported to have resulted in no harm or low harm.

"However, we're hoping this feedback will support all trusts and clinicians in delivering even safer clinical care to all NHS patients in the future."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We welcome this review and look forward to giving it detailed consideration."

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