Shock at deaths caused by NHS mishaps

ACCIDENTS or medical errors resulted in the deaths of more than 25 patients in Suffolk in a six-month period, figures have revealed.

Anthony Bond

ACCIDENTS or medical errors resulted in the deaths of more than 25 patients in Suffolk in a six-month period, figures have revealed.

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has published patient safety incidents which have been reported by frontline NHS staff.

The figures show that 26 patients cared for by health trusts in Suffolk died between October 1 last year and March 31 this year as a result of accidents, errors or complications.

Nine patients also died while in the care of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which covers Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. The report does not reveal exactly where these deaths occurred.

The deaths in Suffolk included 16 patients with the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

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There were five deaths reported as a result of accidents, errors or complications at Ipswich Hospital, one of which was classified as “treatment, procedure”.

West Suffolk Hospital reported two deaths while NHS Suffolk, the primary care trust (PCT) which runs GPs' surgeries and community hospitals, reported three deaths.

Of the PCT's reported incidents, 76.5% were as a result of patient accidents, such as slips and falls.

The nine deaths reported by the East of England Ambulance Service were 3.7% of its total of 242 incidents during the six-month period. This is compared to an average of 0.9% from England's other ambulance organisations.

Dr Nick Morton, acting medical director for the East of England Ambulance Service, said staff were encouraged to report incidents.

“Patient safety is a key priority for us as an ambulance service and we have been encouraging staff to report so I am well impressed that we are reporting decent numbers because trusts which have a high rate of reporting tend to be the ones that take patient safety seriously.

“We are an accident and emergency service and we go where others fear to tread. People are only human and things do go wrong and there are individual errors and the idea is that we do not repeat errors. Some of the deaths are because things have gone wrong and in hindsight we might have wanted to do things differently and we have learned from them which is fantastic.”

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk and Suffolk Community Healthcare patient safety was viewed as of paramount importance and said the three reported deaths were unrelated to patient safety.

Ipswich Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed said: “The national and local message is that more reports do not mean more risks to patients.

“Indeed quite the reverse. Frontline staff are more likely than ever to raise safety concerns much more openly.

“Just last month our hospital was named by the national Patient Safety First campaign as one of 23 NHS trusts in the country who are leading on patient safety.”

Ipswich Hospital also said that the five deaths reported were 0.3% of its total of 1,757 incidents, which is below the national average of 0.4%,

Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: “Every NHS trust should be monitoring these data closely to identify patterns of poor care, spot potential problems early and to make services safer for patients. Trusts with low reporting rates need to consider whether they are tracking incidents properly. We will be following up with these trusts to check that effective safety systems are in place.”