Demands for an end to the culture of secrecy in hospitals

According to figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act, around 21,000 people in Scotland have been injured or killed by medical errors in the past two years.

Last year a total of almost 56,000 patients were injured in hospitals, with 32,000 of them suffering injuries in slips and falls. Around 7,000 patients in Scotland were recorded in 2004 as being involved in "near misses", where medics spotted at the last minute that a mistake was about to be made.

Scotland on Sunday asked all 15 health boards in Scotland to provide details of every incident in the past four years where patients were injured, including cases where medics were responsible for the injuries sustained. Only 10 of the 15 health boards provided information: NHS Grampian said it did not hold figures on patient safety incidents, and NHS Borders, NHS Argyll and Clyde, NHS Orkney and NHS Western Isles failed to respond to the newspaper's request despite a legal requirement under the Freedom of Information Act to provide the details or explain why the information is being withheld.

Professor Graham Teasdale, chairman of the Scottish Audit of Surgical Mortality, which examines surgical deaths in Scotland, said: "There has been a feeling for some years now that medical areas need to be audited in a similar way so unnecessary deaths can be reduced and lessons learned." The true extent of NHS-induced casualties has never been revealed before and this has led to demands from politicians and patients' groups for an end to the culture of secrecy within hospitals.

Medical errors harm one Scot every hour (Scotland on Sunday, 4 December 2005)