Saturday, July 14, 2007

Huge error rate in NHS hospitals

Almost 25,000 hospital patients were the victims of reported medical errors last year, leading to death and serious injury in some cases. The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), which revealed the figures, has issued new guidelines on patient wristbands after more than 2,900 errors were attributed to cases of mistaken identity. Hospitals in England and Wales currently use a variety of bands, with colours or codes meaning different things. Some hospitals even use handwritten tags. But the NPSA said these bands must now be standardised across the country in order to cut down on errors, which are thought to be widely under-reported in the NHS.

It has received reports of patients being placed in the wrong wards and given the wrong medication and blood. Some of these mistakes could have been lethal, the watchdog admitted. Up to 30,000 patients are estimated to die every year due to avoidable medical errors. But the true scale of the problem is largely unknown due to a reluctance by NHS staff to report mistakes and near-misses.

A statement on the NPSA website said yesterday: "Between February 2006 and January 2007, the NPSA received 24,382 reports of patients being mismatched with their care. "It is estimated that more than 2,900 of these related to wristbands and their use." The errors referred to by the Agency could include patients being given the wrong surgery, medication, or tests with potentially life-threatening consequences.

The NPSA said that no further breakdown of the figures for last year was available. The agency, designed to collect data on patient safety, was denounced last year as "dysfunctional" by the Public Accounts Committee, because it had no idea how many patients died each year as a result of medical errors. It subsequently reported that 41,000 medication errors had been recorded between July 2005 to July 2006, which caused 36 deaths. A further 2,000 patients suffered "moderate or severe harm."

In 2005, the National Audit Office reported that nearly one million errors or safety lapses had occurred in the previous year, causing 2,000 deaths. Half of the incidents could have been avoided if staff had learnt from past mistakes, the auditor said.

More here


The way in which people with heart failure are treated on the NHS has been criticised by an independent inspector. A report from the Healthcare Commission says it is concerned about the extent of access patients have to the appropriate tests, drugs and specialist care.

Heart failure, which costs the NHS 625 million pounds per year, affects 900,000 people in the UK, with the "extremely debilitating" condition killing 40 per cent of sufferers within the first year of diagnosis. It most commonly arises following heart attacks or high blood pressure and reduces the amount of blood the heart is able to pump around the body.

The Healthcare Commission claims that the condition's symptoms of tiredness, shortness of breath and swollen ankles and feet are hindering treatment by being confused with less-serious health problems. In the report, the watchdog's chief executive Anna Walker noted the "very positive" progress made since it conducted its last heart failure report in 2003/04. But she goes on to say that "not all those that need treatment are getting it". "Primary care trusts and GPs need to monitor the number of patients they deal with in comparison to national statistics. Symptoms and treatments need to be recorded and followed up by GPs. "The care provided also needs to be audited so lessons can be learnt and improvements made."

Of the 303 primary care trusts evaluated in today's report, just 16 were rated 'excellent' in terms of treatment, with one in seven given a rating of 'weak'. Commenting on the report, the British Heart Foundation's (BHF) Jackie Lodge said the way in which heart failure is treated on the NHS "cannot continue" and called for more specialist nurses to be employed on the health service. "This cannot continue," she claimed. "The BHF believes every heart-failure patient has a right to be given high-quality care so they can manage their condition and symptoms and maximise their quality of life."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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