My Lords, the vast majority of NHS patients receive safe and effective care but, in any healthcare system, mistakes can happen. To enable the NHS to learn from mistakes, the Government established the National Patient Safety Agency, which set up a reporting and learning system to which all NHS organisations in England and Wales are now reporting patient safety incidents. Drawing on this information, the NPSA has produced one report and will shortly produce a second focusing on mental health. The agency will be moving to quarterly reports.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. How many patient incidents and near misses were reported in 2005? The Comptroller and Auditor General's report of October 2005 referred to about 30 different outlets by which trusts could report to the patient safety organisation. Because of the consequential overlap, many doubt the value of reporting to the agency. Has the NPSA made any improvements in reporting back, at regular intervals, on safety measures that should be undertaken on a national level, with reports to be sent to local trusts?
My Lords, the answer to the first question is that the NPSA had just over 85,000 incidents reported in 2005. From November 2003 to March 2005, nearly 70 per cent of reported incidents caused no harm to patients. On the number of sources of information, I understand that the majority of NHS staff will need to report a patient safety incident only once: to their local risk management system, which will notify the agency.
My Lords, following questions asked by the Public Accounts Committee in January, what data on adverse events are being collected from the independent sector before the NHS commissions interventions and operations from it? When will the NPSA cover all healthcare settings, including nursing homes, so that the data are not purely NHS premises-related but about all the UK's patients, especially the older patients, the importance of which, I think, today's news makes abundantly clear?
My Lords, the registration of the independent sector is done through the Healthcare Commission, which receives information from the sector on that. We are working with the independent sector to develop the reporting of these incidents in independent sector treatment centres.
My Lords, we are making sure that there is good feedback to the NHS. A key principle of the reporting system is to ensure that there is confidentiality in relation to what comes up to the national level so that there is anonymity and so that, at the local level, people's names are protected but the organisation itself can learn from mistakes.
My Lords, let us take the specific case of cross-infection and its effect on patients. To what extent do the Government think that contracting out cleaning services should be continued without some sort of control?
My Lords, this is slightly wide of the Question, but I can tell the noble Lord that there is good evidence, as I know from my previous job, that there is not much difference between the cross-infection rates in hospitals that have contracted out their cleaning services and those that have such services in-house.
My Lords, it is possible to report incidents to the agency, but probably the best source is to report them to the local trust, so that they can be fed into its risk management system and onwards to the agency. We are concerned that the NPSA should continue to put information into the public arena so that everybody knows where they stand on such incidents.
My Lords, we have actually given the NPSA more functions, as I recall, and we have no plans to do other than continue to support its important work.
My Lords, I understand that there is good feedback to the NHS. There is a website that is accessible to NHS trusts, so that they can see, on an anonymised basis, what is going on in other trusts as well.