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Compliance with safety alerts improves but still falling short

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There has been a 50% drop in trusts failing to comply with patient safety alerts over the last six months, analysis by Nursing Times has revealed.

However, there are still 654 alerts not acted upon at 205 trusts - although some blame administration errors.

Until now, trusts’ compliance with the alerts - issued by the National Patient Safety Agency to address avoidable problems that have repeatedly caused harm or death - was not routinely made public.

Patient safety campaign group Action Against Medical Accidents previously used freedom of information requests to obtain the figures.

This revealed in August that 251 trusts had not complied with around 1,200 alerts by the deadlines set by the NPSA.

Last month, the NPSA began publishing the data on a monthly basis. The first figures show that on 19 January there were 654 instances of outstanding alerts, representing a significant drop since August.

However, some of the alerts date back as far as 2004 and five trusts had 10 or more outstanding alerts (see above). Action Against Medical Accidents chief executive Peter Walsh said: “Every single one of these alerts is meant to be implemented by the deadline.”

But Judith Morris, director of nursing and midwifery at Stockport Foundation Trust, said that the decision to publish the data monthly meant that some trusts would be penalised for being more diligent than others.

She said: “I think trusts probably like our own who spend time making sure every bit has been implemented will suffer in a way.”

Ms Morris also said that Stockport’s figure of 14 outstanding alerts was wrong because of administrative problems with entering data into the central alert system.
She said February’s figures would show only one alert.

NHS Manchester also said its figure was wrong because of administrative problems, and that had it had just four outstanding alerts on 19 January.

Bedford Hospital Trust said it was “compliant” with its 11 outstanding alerts and would “be administratively closing them down within the next two weeks”.

Barts and The London Trust and Aintree University Hospitals Foundation Trust also said their current figures were now lower.

Dr Gary Francis, medical director at Aintree, said: “Naturally, these figures show a point in time – our current figure is actually six.

He added: “NPSA alerts usually say what should be done, but do not specify how. One organisation may set a one or two step response, while another may go for a 10-step response which will take longer to mark ‘closed’. All organisations must decide what actions are right to maximise safety for their patients.”

A spokeswoman from Barts said the trust took the issue of patient safety “extremely seriously” and it was a “matter of concern and regret that we have yet to resolve, fully, a number of patient safety alerts”.

She said: “Of the 11 unimplemented patient safety alerts on record, four have now been completed. An urgent action plan is in place for the remaining seven, most of which we expect to close imminently.”

 

THE TRUSTS WITH THE MOST OUTSTANDING PATIENT SAFETY ALERTS 
Trust NameNumber of outstanding alerts
STOCKPORT NHS FOUNDATION TRUST14
MANCHESTER PCT13
BARTS AND THE LONDON NHS TRUST11
BEDFORD HOSPITAL NHS TRUST 11
AINTREE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST10

 

THE PATIENT SAFETY ALERTS WITH HIGHEST RATES OF NON-COMPLIANCE 
Alert Name   Number of outstanding alerts
Safer administration of insulin81
Safer lithium therapy  73
Being open: Communicating with patients, their families and carers following a patient safety incident66
SAFER PRACTICE NOTICE (SPN) 14: ‘RIGHT PATIENT, RIGHT BLOOD’ (UPDATE)  36
Oxygen safety in hospitals31
Source: NPSA Date data collected: 19 Jan 

 

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