Study reveals that diagnosis errors are among the most common causes of severe harm and death in NHS hospitals

Posted By Kirsty Dakin - 6th August 2021

Research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, which examined 377 severe harm incidents and deaths on acute medical units in NHS hospitals between 2005 and 2015, has highlighted that the most common incidents reported are errors in diagnosis, prescription errors and failing to monitor unwell patients who later deteriorated.

The study also highlighted that poor communication during handovers and a reduction in the number of staff in hospitals have contributed to the mistakes that were examined.

It is reported that there was a lack of “active decision-making and communication between teams” and no reliable review system to ensure that patients were followed up appropriately. It was also noted that there was poor documentation for patients who had long-term management plans.

Of particular note is the finding that the hospital system relies on the most junior doctors / staff members seeing patients first and this lack of experience could lead to errors in identifying where patients were acutely unwell and need urgent senior input and treatment.

Many of the incidents examined occurred during the night, when there were generally fewer doctors to patients, in particular senior clinicians, and worryingly it was noted that there was often a reliance on patients to advocate for themselves to ensure that tests / referrals were carried out.

It is hoped that the research will help acute medical units to review their systems and make improvements to increase patient safety.

Moosa-Duke Solicitors are experienced clinical negligence solicitors. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered as a result of substandard care from a medical professional, please feel free to call us on 0116 254 7456 for a no-obligation discussion.