Patient safety data submitted to the NHS’s National Reporting and Learning System showed that over 4,600 deaths were linked to patient safety incidents.

Although guidance states that deaths cannot always be attributed to patient safety incidents, the level of harm recorded in the NRLS for 4,668 incidents was “death”. Guidance for submitting to the recording system states that the degree of harm in incidents should be recorded as death where “where death is directly attributable to a patient safety incident”.

In total, 4,356,277 reports of patient safety incidents were reported to the NRLS in the period from November 2018 – October 2019.

Patient safety incidents are any unintended or unexpected incident which could have, or did, lead to harm for one or more patients receiving healthcare. Incidents reported to the NRLS helps the NHS to learn from mistakes and to take action to keep patients safe.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said last month that “patient safety should be front and centre of the NHS”, as he pledged to make NHS care safer. Labour’s plans to transform the NHS includes plans to legislate for safe staffing levels to improve patient safety.

There have been repeated warnings of the impact of underfunding, lack of investment and staffing pressures impacting on patient safety over the past six months. Last month GPs warned that winter pressures were likely to have an impact on patient safety, and 9 out of 10 hospital bosses felt staffing pressures were putting patient’s’ health at risk.

Earlier this year the Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the CQC warned that the NHS had made little progress in improving patient safety over the past 20 years, and NHS Providers published research that showed 8 out of 10 trust leaders felt that reduced investment in NHS facilities was compromising patient safety.


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