NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

British Medical Journal

March 2, 2001

Ten years ago a study of more than 30,000 records of admissions to New York hospitals found that almost 4 percent of admissions were associated with an error and that 14 percent of patients who experienced an error died in part because of the error.

At the time, the British Medical Journal argued that Britain needed a large study of the prevalence of medical errors, based on the calculation that if the same error rate applied in British hospitals as in New York, then 300,000 patients each year experienced an error and 45,000 died in part because of it.

In contrast to the United States and Australia, little is known about adverse patient events in the United Kingdom.

  • A new study of adverse events in two London hospitals found that 10.8 percent of patients experienced adverse events, and the overall rate of events was 11.7 percent when multiple events were included.
  • A third of these events resulted in moderate or severe impairment, and around half were judged preventable.
  • The authors estimate that the cost of additional bed days for the preventable events was over £290,000 and that the bill for such events throughout the National Health Service could be around £1 billion a year.

The present president of the Royal College of Physicians of London agrees that if the NHS is serious about reducing errors then a large scale study is needed.

Source: Charles Vincent, Graham Neale and Maria Woloshynowych, "Adverse events in British hospitals: preliminary retrospective record review," and K.G.M.M. Alberti (Royal College of Physicians of London), "Medical errors: a common problem," Editorial, British Medical Journal, March 3, 2001.

For BMJ study

And editorial


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