‘Serious incidents’ at Sheffield’s hospitals rise by more than half

The number of ‘serious incidents’ at Sheffield’s hospitals, which better safety systems might have prevented, has risen by more than half since 2016.

Wednesday, 15th May 2019, 12:17 pm
Updated Monday, 20th May 2019, 12:50 pm

But the amount of ‘never events’ – so called because they should never be allowed to happen – has fallen during the same period.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals last year recorded 36 ‘serious incidents’ – defined by the NHS as those where the consequences or potential for learning are so great a thorough investigation is needed.

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Dr David Hughes, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals

That was up from 22 in 2016 and 32 in 2017 at the trust, which runs the Northern General and Royal Hallamshire hospitals and the Jessop Wing maternity unit, among other services

According to the NHS, serious incidents ‘demonstrate weaknesses in a system or process’ which could lead to avoidable death or serious harm to patients or staff, or to ‘significant reputational damage’ to the organisations involved.

The trust does not give full details of the incidents in question, for reasons of patient confidentiality, but they included delays in diagnosis, falls, pressure ulcers and items being mistakenly left inside patients following surgery.

Northern General Hospital, in Sheffield, where 25 'serious incidents' requiring investigation were recorded last year

In three cases last year the outcome was described as ‘catastrophic’, which means the patient died or sustained permanent harm, though this was not necessarily a direct consequence of the incident alone.

Of the serious incidents recorded in 2018, 25 occurred at Northern General Hospital, seven happened at the Royal Hallamshire, three were at community sites and one, described as a communication incident, was related to all sites.

The number of never events at the trust, which the NHS says should not occur if healthcare providers follow existing national guidance, fell from four in 2016 to two last year, having risen sharply to seven in 2017.

The figures were revealed following a Freedom of Information request by The Star.

Dr David Hughes, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “We are very sorry that these incidents occurred and our patients can be assured that every one of our staff work tirelessly to minimise the chances of something going wrong.

“Even though the figure for the past three years represents less than 0.001 per cent of the six million patient contacts we had during this period, we do not want anyone to come to harm.

“We have seen a reduction in never events in the past year but, regardless of this, we still investigate every incident irrespective of whether there was any harm to the patient as a result.

“In some cases, we find that the incident was not the sole or even the main factor which resulted in the patient’s outcome, but even in these cases there is always something we can learn.

“If there are changes we can make after any incident then it is important we take action. Following these incidents we always share our investigation findings and provide an apology to the patient or their family. This approach ensures we continually improve the care we provide to our patients.”