• 08 December 2019
  • 4 min read

Labour says more than 4,600 deaths linked to NHS patient safety incidents

  • Nurses news
    Nurses.co.uk editorial team

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said lack of investment and staffing pressures under the Tories has impacted on patient safety.

More than 4,600 deaths between October 2018 and November 2019 can be linked to patient safety incidents in the NHS, Labour have said.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said patient safety data submitted to the NHS’s National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) showed 4,668 deaths were down to unintended or unexpected incidents which led to harm.

He added that the data illustrates how under-funding of the NHS, lack of investment and staffing pressures under the Conservatives have impacted on patient safety.

The Tories argued the data showed only that deaths related to patient safety were being recorded, not that they were increasing.

Although guidance states that deaths cannot always be attributed to patient safety incidents, the level of harm recorded in the NRLS for 4,668 incidents during the yearly period was “death”.

The guidance for submitting to the recording system adds that incidents should be recorded as death where “death is directly attributable to a patient safety incident”.

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According to the analysis, 530 deaths were linked to patient safety incidents in mental health trusts and 73 deaths were linked to incidents in ambulance trusts.

In total, 4,356,227 patient safety incidents were reported to the NRLS between November 2018 and October 2019.

Shadow heath secretary Jonathan Ashworth

Mr Ashworth has pledged that a Labour government would make NHS care safer for patients by putting patient safety “front and centre”.

A Labour government would also legislate for safe staffing levels to improve patient safety, the party said.

Mr Ashworth said: “These figures are heartbreaking and our thoughts are with the families who have lost a loved one in these circumstances.

“Years of Tory cutbacks, under-staffing and failing to prepare for rising pressures puts patients seriously at risk.

“Patient safety must always be a priority which is why Labour will invest in the NHS properly and recruit the staff our health service needs.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock accused Labour of “vilifying” NHS workers by highlighting the death rate.

“This data shows that more patient safety incidents are being reported. They do not show there has been an increase in the actual number of incidents,” said the Cabinet minister.

“We are proud of our record on patient safety – after the terrible record on patient safety under the last Labour government.

“This data is published specifically to encourage a culture of transparency and learning.

“It is therefore utterly irresponsible for Labour to try and play party politics with this data, vilifying the workforce and ultimately making it less likely that they will report incidents when they occur.”

NHS England said it would not be commenting during the election period.

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