NHS boards report thousands of ‘harm’ incidents

Regulator highlights variations in management of ‘adverse events’

Wednesday 11th September 2019

Scotland’s health boards have recorded more than 90,000 ‘adverse events’ in a year which could have – or did – result in harm.

The figures have been revealed in a new report from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) highlighting variations in the way such incidents are managed.

More than 95% of the 90,901 adverse events – which range from near-misses, slips and falls to life-threatening situations – took place in regional NHS boards.

Special health boards, such as the Scottish Ambulance Service, the State Hospital, Carstairs and the Golden Jubilee National Waiting Times Centre, also recorded 3,757 incidents.

Overall, an average of 17 adverse incidents per 1,000 population were reported for acute services in the NHS in Scotland.

The HIS report highlighted that all NHS boards said they discuss incidents with patients, families and carers and provide support for staff following an adverse event.

But the number of the most serious incidents which receive a full review varies.

It also found there are differences across the country in the way review reports and findings are shared with staff.

HIS said it would lead work over the next few months aimed at ensuring greater consistency in reporting by all boards.

Alastair Delaney, director of quality assurance at HIS, said: “There are millions of interactions between patients and healthcare professionals within the NHS in Scotland every year.

“We know that adverse events will sometimes happen and it is essential to learn from them in order to limit, where possible, the chances of them happening again.”

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said work to remove inconsistencies and enhance the quality of adverse event reviews would be implemented by the end of the year.

She said: “Everything we learn from significant adverse events must be used to prevent similar events and contribute to continuous improvement across healthcare services for the benefit of patients, carers and staff.”