Despite a robust system being in place in the NHS to enable the reporting of incidents, figures indicates that less than 5% are actually reported.
A study conducted by the former health minister Lord Ara Darzi has found that there is an inadequate culture of dealing with incidents in the NHS at present.
While the UK has one of the biggest systems in the world for reporting incidents, the “culture of institutions and the culture of medicine” discourages staff from reporting errors for fear of being blamed, experts indicated.
And this can cause significant problems, with patients being played at an increasing risk of harm, and elderly people suffering a disproportionate risk.
Darzi surveyed around 300,000 NHS staff; effectively one-quarter of the permanent workforce in the existing health service.
Experts from Imperial College London suggested that despite emphasis on the importance of the issue, the system for reporting problems in the NHS must be significantly overhauled.
“Culture counts. Health systems and organisations must truly prioritise quality and safety through an inspiring vision and positive reinforcement, not through blame and punishment. Sustained spending pressure coupled with tighter budgets will likely generate large gaps between healthcare needs and available resources; this gap could have large consequences for patient safety,” the report commented.
Lord Darzi, senior author of the report and director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial, believes that the issue has been neglected within the health service, and must be addressed in the near future if the NHS is to reach his full potential.
“For too long the mindset has been that patient harms are inevitable, and that nothing can be done to prevent them. But keeping patients safe is a fundamental part of care. Although we currently face many changes – such as increasingly complex patient cases and limited resources – we must focus on creating safer environments for patients. We also must ensure patients and staff are integral to any solution, and not just seen as victims or culprits.”
Erik Mayer, report author from the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial, was similarly confident that the data and information produced by that report could be considered particularly significant.
“The UK has one of the biggest incident reporting systems in the world. But despite this, evidence suggests that as little as 5% of patient safety incidents are reported. This is often related to the culture of institutions and the culture of medicine. For instance, staff may witness an incident that should be reported, but are hesitant to do so for fear of repercussions.”
Recent data produced by the NHS indicated that over 600,000 safety incidents have been reported in acute hospitals over a six-month period encompassing 2014 and 2015.