New research suggests that one in 10 patients are harmed while they are in hospital.
A review of the notes of 1,006 patients found that between 8% and 10% were harmed because of the care they received and up to around half of the incidents could have been prevented.
Patients undergoing surgery were most likely to be harmed but other problems included falls, burns and complications leading to heart attacks.
More than half (56%) of the incidents caused injury that lasted between a few days and four weeks.
Another 17% left patients disabled for up to six months, 4% caused disability for six to 12 months and another 11% caused permanent disability.
A further one in 10 errors contributed to the patient’s death.
Researchers from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York studied patients admitted to one large teaching hospital in the north of England between January and May 2004.
They published their research in the journal Quality and Safety in Health Care.
Although the results related to one trust, the experts said they were likely to be replicated across other hospitals.
The authors concluded: “This study confirms that adverse events are common, serious and potentially preventable source of harm to patients in NHS hospitals.
“In the light of the findings from this study and [previous UK research], it is now clear that around 8-10% of patients in NHS hospitals may experience some kind of adverse events, of which between 30% and 55% are to some extent preventable.”
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