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Over 3,000 fatalities caused by accidents within the HSE since 2018
Coleman Legal LLP
Aug 21, 2023

Fresh data reveals that since 2018, over 3,000 patients have lost their lives as a result of incidents within the HSE.

Newly released data by the HSE documents an excess of 480,000 incidents with potential to cause harm across hospitals and community healthcare units since 2018. These incidents encompass a range of issues, including falls, assaults on patients or medical staff, medication-related problems and adverse reactions to medical equipment.

In the previous year, the total count of such incidents reached 106,967, marking the highest figure among five years of recorded data. This represented a rise from the 94,422 cases reported in 2018.

Although approximately half of these yearly incidents resulted in no injuries, the statistics reveal that last year, 0.65% (equivalent to 556 cases) culminated in fatalities. The Saolta hospital group, which encompasses healthcare facilities in the North West region, witnessed the highest count of hospital-related incidents.

The data was released following a parliamentary question by Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín. Tóibín called for a thorough investigation into the upsurge in incident numbers and underscored the necessity for comprehensive reforms and increased investments to rectify the ongoing crisis. He noted that the evident understaffing within the healthcare system is creating substantial risks.

He additionally cautioned against the potential financial repercussions, noting that over the course of the past five years, the State Claims Agency has disbursed approximately €1.4 billion in compensation related to “adverse incidents” within the HSE.

A representative from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) emphasized that while these figures are strikingly high, they come as no surprise due to the constant levels of overcrowding within the system.

This overcrowding, when combined with understaffing, renders accidents likely to occur.

Anne Dowling, a consulting legal nurse at AMA Healthcare, highlighted the mounting pressures faced by both staff and patients.

She advocated for a shift in the prevailing culture, emphasizing the necessity for a blame-free atmosphere that tackles adverse events head-on.

Dowling emphasised the need for diligent recording and analysis of incidents in order to implement effective control measures, ensuring a thorough response.

A HSE spokesperson has claimed that the rise in reported incidents is more likely indicative of an improvement in the culture of reporting rather than an actual increase in such events.

They stressed that, within the healthcare context, a low number of reported incidents tends to be a cause for concern and that the HSE’s figures align with global standards.

Keith Rolls Partner Coleman Legal LLP

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