This overview considers how the NHS has performed over the current parliament in relation to patient safety. It looks at data relating to reported incidents and harm, episodes of care free of certain types of harm, and patient and staff perceptions of safety.
- Harm caused by health care affects every health system in the world; the NHS is no exception. Research from the UK suggests that around 8-12% of admissions to hospitals will involve an adverse event, resulting in harm to the patient. Between half and one third of these adverse events are thought to be preventable. Similar figures are reported in international studies.
- The NHS has made great progress in tackling some specific causes of harm in hospitals. The number of people developing infections such as MRSA as a result of their care has remained low during this parliament. The proportion of patients receiving care that is free of four common adverse events, including pressure ulcers, has increased from 91% in July 2012 to 94% in February 2015.
- Staff reporting of hospital safety incidents continues to improve. There has been a sustained increase in the reporting of incidents during this parliament, while the percentage of staff saying they have witnessed an incident has remained roughly the same. This suggests that the proportion of hospital incidents going unreported has declined.
- Some warning signs are emerging among the NHS workforce. During this parliament, the percentage of staff who say there is a blame culture in their organisation has risen, as has the percentage of staff who have reported feeling unwell because of work-related stress. Around 40% of patients feel there aren’t always enough nurses on duty to care for them.
- We don’t know how safe health care services are outside of hospital. There is little published evidence from which to draw conclusions about levels of harm in primary and community care. Less than 1% of all reported incidents are in primary care, despite 90% of all patient contact taking place there, suggesting significant underreporting of harm in this care setting.