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NHS England to review low number of GP patient safety reports

NHS England is to investigate the low numbers of patient safety incidents reported by GPs, which make up 0.5% of all incidents reported in the NHS, in an attempt to encourage practitioners to report adverse events.

A patient safety expert group for primary care- which includes the RCGP, patient representatives and experts on patient safety- has been set up to look into why reports to the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS) from general practice are low compared with other areas of the NHS.

The NRLS collects figures on patient safety incidents to identify where and how incidents occur in order to prevent them in the future. It collects more than one million confidential reports of patient safety incidents in the NHS every year, but just 0.5% of those come from general practice.

The GPC said that it is likely there will be fewer adverse events in general practice, but that historically there has been a ‘blame culture’ which means GPs are less likely to report adverse events.

NHS England said there is little published evidence on why rates are so low. A spokesperson said that considering that there are 300 million GP recorded patient consultations a year, they need to understand why it is that the reporting rates for patient safety incidents are not higher than they currently are.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘GPs use a tool called Significant Event Audits to learn from incidents, but we want reporting and learning from primary care to be on a national scale that could be beneficial to GPs across the country. There is little published evidence relating to the rates of adverse events in general practice, we want to understand why this is.

‘We would like to ask GPs to report into the National Learning and Reporting System because we believe they are underrepresented in this learning system, which is a world leading collection of healthcare reporting.’

They added that one of the patient safety expert group’s aims will be to encourage GPs encouraged to report adverse events.

They said: ‘The Patient Safety Expert Group will work with stakeholders to understand how we can encourage GPs to report as well as helping us to work through other safety areas in partnership with GPs.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘General practice is a very low risk safe area, our interventions are a lot less risky when compared to hospitals so I think inevitably the big safety issues are much less in general practice. Surgeries have been overwhelmed with bureaucracy so when they do report to the PCT they are faced with requests for paperwork.

‘They also experience a disproportionate level of scrutiny. There’s a blame culture, the culture hasn’t been right for practices to report things in a positive sense, it’s always something that will be held against them.’