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20% ‘under-reporting’ safety events

One in five NHS trusts may not be being open and honest about the numbers of patient safety incidents that occur in their hospitals, health officials have said.

Twenty per cent of acute NHS trusts in England have been flagged by health officials for under-reporting patient safety incidents, including events that cause severe harm or even death.

A new tool is being unveiled by the Department of Health (DH) and NHS England which enables the public to see how well their hospital is performing on key safety measures.

The new safety website shows that there are “concerns” about incident reporting at one in five acute trusts, a DH spokeswoman said.

Concerns are raised when a trust may not be reporting enough incidents, not reporting these events often enough or where staff feel that the organisation is not responding to incident reports as well as they could, she said.

Each trust listed on the new site is given a rating for their reporting culture. Just 17.7% were deemed to be good, 61.7% are OK and 20.6% were rated as “poor”.

The trusts are given the rating based on five different categories; potential under-reporting of patient safety incidents, possible under-reporting of incidents leading to death or severe harm, potential under-reporting of accidents which resulted in no harm, the organisation’s reporting to the National Reporting and Learning System and how staff feel the trust responds to safety incidents.

The DH spokeswoman stressed that trusts are not flagged because they are deliberately hiding things and there could be “many reasons” behind a poor rating.

Ministers said the new tool will help to drive up standards of care across the NHS.

Other data to be published includes information on infection control, cleanliness, and whether or not patients are assessed for blood clots.

In addition to launching the website, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will also start the Sign Up To Safety campaign – which calls on trusts to outline how they will reduce avoidable harm and save lives.

Mr Hunt will say: “The NHS is leading the world in achieving new safety standards but the battle to reduce avoidable harm is constant.

“Unsafe care causes immeasurable harm to patients and their families, and also costs the NHS millions in litigation claims.”

Sir David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal Hospital and leader of the new safety campaign, said: “I am delighted that this campaign focuses on saving lives and reducing harm. This is the right thing to do.

“Healthcare carries inherent risk and while healthcare professionals work hard every day to reduce this risk every day, harm still happens. Some is unavoidable but most isn’t.

“Sign Up To Safety seeks to reduce this harm and is a unique opportunity for us all to work together to listen, learn and act to make a difference.”

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