27 June 2019 | Comment | Article by Katie McCraith

Recent figures highlight the number of mistakes by the Welsh NHS leading to patient harm or death

Recent Welsh Government statistics show that mistakes made by the Welsh NHS have led to the harm of thousands of patients over the past year. The Government have categorised cases by severity, and also give a breakdown of the number of reported incidents in each of the seven Welsh health boards.

The figures show that between June 2018 and May 2019, 77 patients died due to an "unintended or unexpected" safety incident. 48 of these deaths (over 60%) occurred at the Betsi Caldwalder University Health Board in North Wales, which ranked by far the highest amongst Welsh health boards.

In the past 12 months, 372 patients wrongfully suffered "severe" harm, leaving them with unexpected long-term or permanent damage.  Again, Betsi Caldwalder University Health Board reported the highest number of such incidents.

“Moderate” harm caused by mistakes was reported to have occurred in 8,463 cases. The Welsh Government also identified tens of thousands of reported mistakes which resulted in either low-level harm or no harm.

Amongst some of the most common reported incidents were procedural errors, inaccuracies with paperwork and miscalculation of drug dosages.

Earlier this year, Cwm Taf University Health Board’s escalation status was raised to “enhanced monitoring” amid a variety concerns, most notably with maternity services and the reporting of serious incidents (you can read our previous article on this here). Betsi Cadwalder University Health Board has been on Special Measures – the highest level of escalation – since June 2014.The Welsh Government has not yet confirmed when it intends to decrease the health board’s escalation status.

There have recently been calls from the Welsh Government for increased accountability within the Welsh NHS. There has also been a proposal for a “duty of candour” within the Welsh NHS, which seeks to increase honesty and transparency through better record-keeping and enhanced reporting requirements. The duty was proposed by the Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Bill, which is currently at Stage 1 in the National Assembly for Wales.

These figures indicate a worrying trend, but it is heartening to hear that a “duty of candour” could be introduced into the Welsh NHS soon, and that the Welsh Government backs more accountability for Welsh Health Boards. Patients have often reported that it can be very difficult obtaining information about what has happened to them or loved ones. Any measures that aim to improve access to information and provide explanations as to what happened in an open and honest way are welcomed. 

At Hugh James we assist many people who have been harmed as a result of adverse incidents in a medical setting. 

The Medical Negligence department at Hugh James is ranked in the top tier for their expert clinical negligence advice by both major legal guides – Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.

For more information, visit our Medical Negligence page to get in touch and find out if you are eligible to claim.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

Business news, knowledge and insight