Wales

Welsh NHS 'failing' on safety alerts, claims charity

The Welsh NHS is failing to comply with important patient safety alerts, a report released on Friday will say.

BBC Wales understands it will show some health boards have less than 50% compliance - with concern over the use of blood transfusions, oxygen cylinders and delays in medication.

Some boards were five years overdue on the use of patient wrist bands.

The Welsh Government said the figures were "not incorrect" but did not fully reflect the work done on compliance.

Information supplied to the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) shows no health board in Wales was 100% compliant with all alerts by the beginning of May this year.

According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Cwm Taf, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Betsi Cadwaladr Health Boards were all at 50% or less compliance.

The Welsh Government has confirmed that the figures are "not incorrect'," but stress they do not fully reflect the work being done "to ensure patient safety compliance".

Peter Walsh, chief executive of AvMA, said: "By definition, all of the patient safety alerts are important. In fact, they are life and death issues.

"They are only issued on the most important issues which repeatedly cause harm or death in the NHS, so not complying by the deadline with a patient safety alert is by definition putting patients at unnecessary risk."

Alerts are issued by the National Patient Safety Agency after incidents in English and Welsh Hospitals, with deadlines set for implementing advice. 13811636

The Welsh Government requires health boards to comply "with safety and clinical directives in a timely way", and to record and audit their own compliance.

Image caption The Welsh Government said the figures did not fully reflect the work being done to ensure patient safety compliance

However, the AvMA found 170 instances of an alert not being followed on time.

It found actions to minimise the risks of oxygen therapy - due to be implemented by September 2009 - were not being fully followed by any of the seven health boards.

An alert to prevent delays for patients with glaucoma, an eye condition that can lead to blindness, has not been fully implemented by any part of the Welsh NHS.

Only one health board in Wales was complying fully with an alert to reduce harm from omitted and delayed medicines, due to be implemented by February 2011.

Only one health board was fully following protocols issued on the use of emergency blood transfusions, which should have been implemented by March 2011.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said "the figures shown are a snapshot in time and whilst they are not necessarily incorrect, they do not, taken alone, reflect the considerable amount of work being done across the NHS in Wales to ensure patient safety compliance".

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board, which has only achieved a 47% compliance according to the figures, said it "would like to reassure all ABM patients that we take safety very seriously".

It said some of the alerts are classified as incomplete because their monitoring is ongoing.

It added: "We also classify any alerts with an element of continuous monitoring/assessment as ongoing. This allows us to keep the alert under review."

Cwm Taf Health Board, which achieved a 50% compliance, stressed that some of the delays are down to finalising paperwork.

Medical Director Kamal Asaad said: "All the alerts have been actioned and the classification of complete or 'ongoing' relates to the status of progressing final documentation or post implementation validation."

The Welsh NHS Confederation, which represents all NHS bodies in Wales, stressed work is being done to improve patient safety.

It said: "Huge strides have been made through the work of 1000 Lives Plus, a national programme focused on improving the safety and quality of healthcare in Wales."

"So far, 1,199 extra lives have been saved through introducing new ways of working to improve safety and reduce avoidable harm."

But the body responsible for the report says more must be done to learn lessons.

Mr Walsh, of the AvMA, said: "We appreciate that a lot of good work and effort is being put into patient safety in Wales, but we are calling for a concerted effort by everyone involved in running and monitoring the NHS in Wales to ensure there is 100% compliance as soon as possible."

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