New analysis of NHS England Data has identified that patient safety incidents resulting in severe harm or death having increased by 25% when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Since 2010 NHS Organisations in England have been required to report all patient safety incidents that result in either severe harm or death. In the 2021/22 reporting year there were 12,675 such incidents that were reported across England, which is an average of 35 per day.

Severe harm is defined as ‘any unexpected or unintended incident that caused permanent or long-term harm to one or more persons’. With death defined as ‘any unexpected or unintended event that caused the death of one or more persons’.

This number is an increase of over 2,500 since 2019/20, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Whilst the Pandemic and the impact that it had on the NHS may have contributed to this increase it is unlikely that this can be wholly attributed to it. Opinions will naturally differ on this point however, NHS England wrote in their 2021/22 report that the number of incidents reported generally was a reflection of an improved reporting culture and was not to be seen as a decrease in the safety of the NHS.

The figures from before the pandemic highlighted that the number of safety incidents had been increasing. The number of safety incidents occurring that resulted in severe harm or death increased by 2% between 2010/11 when the reports started and 2019/20.

Interestingly the number of safety incidents that occurred resulting in any degree of harm was 689,745 for the 2021/22 year, which is an average of 1,890 a day. From April to June 2022, a total of 652,246 incidents were reported, representing an 8% increase when compared to the same period in 2021. This is thought by NHS England to be attributable to the provision of services during the COVID-19 pandemic period which subsequently led to reported incidents being comparably low.

It will be interesting to see the development in December 2023 when we are one year further on from the COVID-19 pandemic.

To talk to a member of our team about medical negligence please call 01522 561020 or email



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