NHS chiefs urged to tackle ‘silent scandal of errors’

HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on the NHS to tackle the “silent scandal of errors” which led to around 3,000 patients needless deaths last year as a result of poor care.

Figures show nearly 500,000 people were also harmed unnecessarily while the NHS also recorded 326 “never events” – incidents so unacceptable they should never happen.

Mr Hunt suggested the UK has become “so numbed to the inevitability of patient harm that we accept the unacceptable” and called for a change in culture that means errors are constantly revealed and reduced.

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Of those recorded in 2011-12, 70 patients were given “wrong site” surgery, where the wrong part of the body or even the wrong patient was operated on, and 41 people were given incorrect implants or prostheses.

“This is the silent scandal of our NHS,” Mr Hunt said.

“We have allowed ourselves to settle for levels of patient harm that are simply unacceptable. I want the NHS to be the world’s safest health system. It has all of the tools to do this, and I believe it should aspire to nothing less.”

Mr Hunt said that “a much bigger transformation” was needed in care outside hospitals. He claimed patients are at a “much higher risk” when they are discharged, and “that is the point at which it’s not clear to me where the accountability is”.

Health officials said the NHS tops the International Commonwealth Fund comparison on patient safety, beating France, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the US.

Mr Hunt called for the NHS to become the first healthcare system in the world to publish information on the likelihood of a harm-free patient experience across every hospital. He said new proposals would mean the name of the responsible doctor and responsible nurse were clearly written above every bed in every hospital, so patients know “where the buck stops”.

Consultants who block the publication of new outcome figures measuring their performance are expected to be named and shamed from next week.