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GPs 'too busy' to learn from near-misses and mistakes

Time pressures and lack of awareness prevent 'worrying' numbers of GPs learning lessons from practice errors that are serious enough to jeopardise patient safety, a Government-funded study suggests.

The quality of review of 'significant events' varies widely and is in some cases 'insufficient', the study says.

Research on 466 GP principals in Glasgow showed 86 per cent reported being aware of a recent significant event associated with their practice.

But a substantial minority of this group – 45 per cent – did not undertake a full analysis when the event occurred, including documenting the event, giving a reason for the mistake and considering a change in practice procedure.

Results in the latest edition of Quality and Safety in Health Care (April) also showed 20 per cent of GPs who attempted an analysis of an event perceived the risk of it recurring as moderate to very high.

Study leader Paul Bowie, associate adviser at NHS Education for Scotland in Glasgow, said the findings were worrying.

'If extrapolated nationally these figures would be quite substantial. It is possible some of these doctors had genuinely not experienced a recent significant event, but it seems more likely that inexperience and lack of knowledge are more plausible,' he added.

RCGP chair Professor David Haslam said the college 'thoroughly recommended' significant event monitoring. But he added: 'It is understandable that it isn't prioritised by every surgery.'

By Brian Kelly

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