Saturday 14 December 2019

One eighth of patients suffer harm in hospital, says report

The research was intended to examine the extent of medical mistakes Stock photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire
The research was intended to examine the extent of medical mistakes Stock photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

One in eight patients admitted to hospitals in Ireland over the course of a year suffers an unintended injury, with some dying, new research has revealed. And nearly three-quarters of these adverse events are preventable.

The study is the first of its kind to examine the extent of medical mistakes and other sources of harm to patients, sometimes with grave consequences.

Almost seven in 10 of the incidents were rated as having a mild to moderate impact on the patient, said the research by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians.

This ranged from no physical injury at the time of hospital discharge to moderate impairment with recovery within six months.

Another 5pc of incidents caused moderate impairment, with disability lasting six months to a year.

But one in 10 patients were left harmed for more than a year and 7pc died as a result of the injury.

Prof David Williams, the principal investigator at the RCSI said: "While this study was conducted in 2009, it is an important measure of the burden and impact of these events."

The team looked at 1,574 adult patients who were admitted to eight randomly selected public hospitals.

Some patients had to be readmitted to hospital after developing unnecessary complications, while others picked up an infection.

Other patients suffered a delayed diagnosis or were harmed while having an operation.

The biggest risk was to surgical patients. But patients who were undergoing therapy and being given medication also ended up with potentially avoidable complaints.

Risks also emerged for patients who were having non-surgical procedures, as well as pregnant women.

The findings, published in 'BMJ Quality and Safety Journal', estimated that these in-hospital incidents were costing €5,550 per event, leaving the health service with a bill of €194m a year.

The average age of patients who suffered an adverse event was almost 62. There was an 18pc increase in the risk of an adverse event with every 10 years added to the patient's age.

The HSE's national director for quality improvement, Dr Philip Crowley, said the HSE had now set up systems which improved patient safety.

The problems were as bad for men as women.


Researchers said the ratio for Irish patients was broadly consistent with similar studies carried out in other countries.

The study pointed out that while there is significant human cost, the financial fallout escalates when litigation and other outlays for the patient's care are taken into account.

The outgoing Government has promised to set up a patient-safety body, which would advocate on behalf of people who believe they are the victim of error and are seeking answers.

This is in response to a number of scandals and Hiqa reports into major failures which happened in hospitals.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News