NHS hospitals to publish figures on avoidable patient deaths

The NHS in England will become the first health system to publish figures on avoidable patient deaths in a "brave" move to increase transparency and learn from mistakes, Jeremy Hunt said.

The Health Secretary said the move was aimed at encouraging a culture where it will be made easy for staff to record where errors have occurred.

He acknowledged that pressure from regulators and the threat of litigation had sometimes prevented transparency.

By the end of this year, 170 out of 223 trusts will publish data on deaths they believe could have been prevented, the BBC reported.

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Mr Hunt said: "We are going to be the first country in the world where hospitals, by law, are going to publish their own estimate of the number of avoidable or preventable deaths.

"Think for a moment about the most traumatic thing that could happen in a hospital - having talked to lots of people on the front line, it's probably when a baby dies because of a preventable mistake.

"In that situation, the family are victims but so too are the doctors, nurses and midwives, it's incredibly traumatic for them.

"They want to be open and transparent and learn from what happens but, frankly, we sometimes make that practically impossible, where people are worried about litigation, about being struck off by the GMC (General Medical Council), about the CQC (Care Quality Commission), whatever.

"So what this is doing is saying that we are going to be open and transparent about what happens and we are going to make sure the most important thing of all - that we learn from mistakes.

"This is putting in place structures which, all over the world they are looking at the NHS and saying this is a remarkable thing to do, it's very, very brave."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that figures between hospitals may not be directly comparable because some already had a culture where mistakes were more easily raised.

"They are all being asked to use the same methodology to determine where a death is preventable or not, but the reason you can't compare between hospitals is because some of them have really good internal cultures which make it easy for staff to speak out about things that have gone wrong and others are still on that journey," he said.

"What this is about is not some top-down system or some huge bureaucracy imposed from the Department of Health or NHS England, where you would have wrangling about whether this or that death was preventable - it's about hospitals creating a culture which makes it easy for staff in the front line to say, 'something went wrong, I think it could have had a different outcome and we need to learn from this so that it doesn't happen again', and that's what's starting to happen."