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Number of fatal HSE blunders 'unknown'

More than 1,600 people in the health service are victims of accidents, blunders or near misses every week -- but it is not known how many prove fatal.

New figures from the HSE and State Claims Agency show that last year there were more than 83,483 incidents of harm or near misses reported.

However, the agency said it could not say how many people died as a result of negligence -- and that it does not know what happened in 40pc of the reported cases.

The figures show that the largest category of recorded incidents was slips, trips and falls. But almost one in every 10 cases involved a medication error. There are also increasingly frequent reports of patients suffering a punctured organ during keyhole surgery.

The agency paid out €60m in compensation for medical mistakes, including brain injury at birth.

It will pay out between €80m to €90m this year, partly due to a time lag in cases.

Just 450 compensation claims are lodged annually but international evidence indicated one in 10 patients admitted to hospital will suffer some harm during their treatment, indicating many blunders are still not being reported.

However, Dr Ailis Quinlan, the agency's head of clinical indemnity, admitted it could not say how many people died due to negligence.

"Frequently the outcome is not recorded so we don't know whether the patients has died or not," she said.

"Some deaths in hospital are reportable to the coroner. That does not represent negligence. Stillbirths are recorded but they are not due to negligence. The system as at present designed is not designed to capture mortality data," she added.

The biggest problems involved slips, trips and falls which accounted for 26,288 incidents -- half of which occurred in facilities outside hospital. More than 13,000 fell when they were not being supervised while almost 3,500 fell from a chair.

Reported cases of violence, harassment, aggression and abuse against patients rose substantially to 9,690 last year while there were 6,882 incidents involving medication.

Another 5,951 accidents and near misses were reported in patients' treatment while 5,068 reports were made by maternity hospitals, including haemorrhage after childbirth and unexpected transfer of the baby to special care and intensive care.

There were 1,647 people who suffered because they did not get treatment or had it delayed while 617 had serious soft tissue damage.

The numbers of people reported to be self-harming rose to 2,518 and 3,221 people absconded, including mental health patients .

Irish Independent