On 9th October 2012 the State Claims Agency and the HSE published a report which revealed that 85,918 incidents of harm or near misses occurred in the Irish health service in 2011. This is an increase of almost 3% on 2010. This is a truly staggering figure which equates to 235 errors every day. The HSE’s national director of quality and patient safety, Philip Crowley, stated “International data suggests that approximately one in ten hospital in-patients will experience some harm during their treatment and this report is in line with incident reporting statistics internationally.”
Whilst almost a third of the total number of incidents related to slips/trips/falls a closer look at the breakdown of the overall figure reveals some frightening facts. For example, there were:-
- 2,069 peri-operative or peri-procedure incidents (5 per day).
- 1,001 blood transfusion incidents (almost 3 per day).
- 9,881 incidents of violence, harassment, aggression or abuse against patients (27 per day). Of these there were 930 verbal assaults, an incredible 4,315 incidents of physical assaults and a further 271 alleged physical assaults.
- 6,633 medication incidents including 2,779 incidents where either the incorrect dosage or incorrect medication was administered or where the medication was missed or given at an incorrect frequency (7 per day).
- 6,293 treatment incidents. These include 1,555 incidents where delays in treatment or a failure to provide treatment resulted in an adverse outcome for the patient (4 per day).
- 5,607 peri-natal incidents, covering the period around childbirth for both mother and child (15 per day)
- 1,922 equipment / device incidents (5 per day)
- 1,436 diagnosis incidents (4 per day)
In light of these figures it is interesting to note that in July 2012 Mr. Ciaran Breen, Director of the State Claims Agency, wrote in a newsletter editorial that for the first time since the formation of its Clinical Indemnity Scheme, the State Claims Agency has observed an upward trend in the number of clinical claims received in the first six months of 2012 when compared with previous years. Mr. Breen went on to write “Anecdotally there appears to be a link between the prevailing difficult economic and fiscal circumstances and the higher rate of claims. It appears that people injured as a result of a medical negligence event are more likely to sue doctors, dentists and hospitals in these more difficult times”. The suggestion that more people are bringing claims arising out of medical negligence because they may be struggling financially is to completely ignore the reality that the same “difficult economic and fiscal circumstances” have directly led to on-going cutbacks in the resources available to our hospitals and doctors. Therefore, it is hardly any surprise that there is an increase in the number of incidents being reported and, consequently, an increased number of claims where harm has occurred.
In fact, only 542 clinical claims were made against the state in 2011. In addition, recent figures from the State Claims Agency reveal that their Clinical Indemnity Scheme is currently handling a total of 2,082 active clinical claims. Therefore it is abundantly clear that despite the number of incidents reported to the State Claims Agency by hospital staff only a fraction of patients who have suffered injury or harm as a result of incidents in hospital ever bring a claim against the State arising out of mistreatment.
02 November 2012