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Trusts failing to report ‘concerning’ numbers of hospital-acquired covid cases

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Some acute trusts have failed to report large numbers of hospital-acquired covid infections as patient safety incidents, despite NHS England describing this as ‘fundamental’. 

HSJ examined the numbers of “infection control” patient safety incidents reported to the national reporting and learning system in 2020-21, and compared this to separate NHS England data on covid infections most likely to have been acquired in hospital.

The number of incidents reported to the NRLS in the 12-month period should in theory be higher, as it covers all types of hospital-acquired infections, while the NHSE data only covered covid infections in the last seven months of the year. 

This appears to hold true nationally, with almost 59,000 incidents reported to the NRLS, compared to around 36,000 likely hospital-acquired covid infections suggested by the NHSE data. But for around a third of trusts, the incident numbers reported to the NRLS were smaller, with some appearing to report very low numbers.

Helen Hughes, chief executive of patient safety charity Patient Safety Learning, said: “The scale of the under-reporting set out in these findings is particularly concerning.”

“As this data informs assessment of performance at both organisational and national levels, it is possible that this could create a false assurance about the extent of harm in this period,” Ms Hughes said.

“Where organisations are now retrospectively completing serious incident reports, there are obvious questions as to whether key insights will have been lost as memories of incidents fade over time and their causes.”

“However, they rely on the capacity and commitment of staff behind them. The pandemic has placed an enormous strain on the health service and we have heard from staff the time constraints this has put on them to report patient safety incidents,” she added. 

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 15 October 2021

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