UK & World News
Hospitals Covering Up Mistakes, Govt Warns
One in five hospital trusts may be covering up serious mistakes that result in unnecessary deaths, the Government has warned.
A review estimates that 29 out of 141 trusts could be under-reporting safety incidents. They will each be followed up by NHS officials.
It comes as ministers launch a new website, which will allow patients to compare hospital safety records including information on staffing levels and infection rates.
It is part of an effort to try to drive down thousands of preventable deaths caused each year by issues such as misdiagnosis, medication mistakes, hospital infections, blood clots and bedsores.
One study suggested such mistakes result in 12,000 deaths in England each year, but others have estimated the total could be more like 40,000.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, believes action through a "Sign Up To Safety" campaign could save 6,000 lives a year and massively reduce costs.
In a speech in Seattle in March, he argued that the "appalling cruelty and neglect" that took place at Mid Staffordshire Hospital and "profoundly shocked" the nation was a turning point for the NHS.
"Not for one second do I underestimate the challenge of delivering change in 260 hospital trusts employing 1.3 million staff across the system. But I believe we can do it," he said.
He pointed out that hefty savings could be made from the NHS's £1.3bn annual bill on litigation claims.
Last year Mr Hunt announced hospital trusts that covered up mistakes would have to pay the compensation bills themselves - rather than the tab being picked up by the NHS as a whole.
The website will be launched on Tuesday on the NHS Choices website. As well as showing safety incidents admitted by hospitals, it will rank them on honest and open reporting. It has 17.7% of trusts rated as good, 61.7% as acceptable but 20.6% as poor.
The Department of Health said the low number of safety incidents could simply mean the hospitals are performing well but that had to be checked with further investigation.
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 who is leading the safety campaign, added: "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."