'Shocking' NHS accident inaction condemned

Patient safety concerns revealed by new data
Patient safety concerns revealed by new data

By Alex Stevenson

A widespread failure across the NHS to comply with patient safety standards has been described as "shocking" by the Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) charity.

Its freedom of information request about the number of unresolved alerts issued by the National Patient Safety Agency revealed that 80 NHS Trusts have not complied with ten or more separate alerts.

Compliance involves reporting to the NPSA's central alert system when all the recommended actions have been completed. Doing so is one of the top 'core standards' which all NHS trusts in England are supposed to meet.

It has emerged that around three-quarters of England's trusts had not complied with at least one alert, while University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust had not complied with 70% of alerts.

"The fact that so many NHS bodies are failing to comply with potentially life saving alerts from the NPSA is shocking," AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said.

"It is putting lives at unnecessary risk and adds insult to injury for patients who have been harmed or lost loved ones as a result of NHS lapses in safety. We all know that mistakes can happen, but there can be no excuse for not acting on patient safety alerts."

Mr Walsh admitted concern that there is no system in place to monitor compliance.

"It is this kind of complacency which could allow another Stafford to happen," he warned.

AvMA has written to health minister Ann Keen notifying her of the findings.

"The NHS has a duty to deliver high quality, safe and effective care and the vast majority of patients receive just that," a Department of Health (DoH) spokesperson said.

"We are taking action to ensure services are even safer and that hospitals treat patient safety as a priority."

The DoH is requiring all NHS Trusts to register with the Care Quality Commission from 2010, after which NHS organisations will have to report serious patient safety incidents.

"We expect all NHS trusts to comply with safety alerts and to record and action them," the spokesperson added.

"However, not all organisations may be updating the system reliably and in a timely fashion. The Department will shortly be issuing all NHS organisations a formal reminder of their obligations to do this."


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