More adverse events in healthcare reported

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Stock photo: Getty
A challenging year for healthcare services has been reflected in a rise in reported adverse events, the Health Quality and Safety Commission says.

Released today, its annual adverse events report for 2019-20 showed 975 serious adverse events were reported to the Commission, up from 916 the previous financial year.

Health professionals are encouraged to report serious adverse events — something which happened to someone while in healthcare which resulted in jury or death — so that lessons are learned and systems improved.

While event numbers were closely linked to reporting rates, this year’s increase did not necessarily mean more adverse events had occurred, commission clinical lead David Hughes said.

"What it may in fact demonstrate is organisations continuing to develop an open culture where events are reported and learnt from, rather than an increase in preventable harm."

However, Covid-19 had placed enormous pressure on clinicians, Dr Hughes said.

"Now more than ever, we must remain focused on the quality of our care and on keeping our patients and ourselves safe."

Of the 975 adverse events, 627 were reported by district health boards, and 218 were mental health issues which involved people in DHB care.

Private hospitals reported 113 adverse events, and the remainder came from ambulance services, primary care, aged care, hospice, and other providers.

"Every adverse event described in this document has a consumer and their whanau at its centre, commission chairman Dale Bramley said.

"It is our duty to continually strive to improve how we manage and learn from these events, and how we communicate with and support all those who have been affected."

* Were you affected by an adverse event in the southern region this year? Contact health reporter Mike Houlahan at


Were any adverse events iatrogenic: caused by the treatment?

What's not clear from the full report is how many of these events arose from criminal negligence. I think that is a lacking in the administration of our health system. Medical professionals are not held to account in any public forum, such as courts of justice, for criminal negligence on their part.

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