The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that the government will launch the next stage of its campaign to improve patient safety this week. A new section of the NHS Choices website will allow patients to see which hospitals are reporting safety incidents. The general view is that those with particularly low rates of reported incidents may well be failing to disclose problems with patient safety and engaging in a culture of secrecy, covering up their failings. A government review suggests that a fifth of hospital trusts in England may be covering up mistakes.
The analysis of reporting incidents showed 29 out of 141 trusts had failed to register the anticipated number of safety incidents Open disclosure of failings in the system give Trusts and their staff the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, a crucial step towards improving patient safety.
Mr Hunt said: “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, the chief executive of Salford Royal Hospital and leader of the safety campaign, urged hospitals to be open.
“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.”
The website will also allow patients to view the performance of individual hospitals in relation to infection rates.
The Department of Health indicated that there could be acceptable reasons for low reporting, including high safety standards, or a lack of understanding of the reporting system but any concerns should be investigated further.
“Any positive steps to improve patient safety in hospitals must be welcomed” commented Chris Thorne, partner specialising in Clinical Negligence at Clarke Willmott “Most of our clients are primarily interested in obtaining a clear explanation of what went wrong and why. A greater degree of openness would facilitate earlier and cheaper resolution of claims to the benefit of all concerned”.