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NHS trusts 'not acting on safety alerts'

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Hundreds of trusts have failed to take action on patient safety alerts issued to tackle problems that cause injury or death, a report out today says.

The study by Action Against Medical Accidents found that 300 trusts in England, around three quarters of the total, had not complied with at least one patient safety alert although the deadline had passed.

It obtained the data, which covers 53 patient safety alerts issued between 2004 and 2009, from the Department of Health via a Freedom of Information request in December.

The alerts are issued by the National Patient Safety Agency and require NHS trusts to take action on certain problems.

They included one on injectable medicines that was issued after 25 deaths and 28 cases of serious harm were reported between January 2005 and June 2006.

Others tackled handwashing to prevent the spread of serious infections, action to avoid feeding tubes being fitted incorrectly and action to improve safety for patients receiving high doses of morphine.

In total, 80 trusts had not said whether they had complied with 10 or more of the alerts.

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust had not confirmed whether it had taken action on 37 alerts, and Greenwich Teaching PCT and Lewisham Hospital Trust on 31.

Action Against Medical Accidents found more than 200 incidents where NHS trusts had not complied with alerts that were more than five years old.

It called for a government investigation into the worst trusts, and said implementing the alerts by the required deadline should be mandatory.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We expect all NHS trusts to comply with safety alerts and to record and action them. However, not all organisations may be updating the system reliably and in a timely fashion. The department will shortly be issuing all NHS organisations a formal reminder of their obligations to do this.”

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