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National Patient Safety Agency

Statement on the Healthcare Commission’s 6th survey of NHS staff

24 March 2009

This survey has revealed significant improvements across the NHS contributing to patient safety.


Key findings shows there was an increase in the reporting of errors, near misses or incidents coupled with staff now feeling more encouraged to report these errors.


There is strong evidence that increased reporting is a reflection of a transparent organisation with a strong safety culture.

Martin Fletcher, Chief Executive of the NPSA said:

“We welcome this report and are greatly encouraged by the findings showing an increase in staff reporting patient safety incidents.  This is strong evidence that we are making gains in ensuring that all NHS organisations promote an open and fair culture. This is a vital foundation for improving patient safety because a culture of blame will only drive problems underground".

View the Healthcare Commission's 6th survey of NHS staff.


Notes for Editors:


HCC Survey findings regarding errors, near misses and incidents:

  • 35% of staff said that in the last month they had seen at least one error, near miss or incident that could have hurt staff or patients. This is higher than the 31% in 2007 but down from 38% in 2006. Amongst frontline staff, 43% said they had witnessed at least one such adverse event.
  • Nearly all staff (96%) reported the most recent error, near miss or incident they had witnessed, two percentage points higher than in 2007. Data were comparable across all trust types with the exception of ambulance trusts in which a lower percentage (89%) of staff said that they reported witnessed errors, incidents and near misses.
  • Eighty percent of staff felt encouraged to report errors, near misses and incidents, an increase of five percentage points from 2007, and only a small proportion (11%) felt that reporting of errors would lead to punishment or blaming of those involved, similar to in 2007. Nearly 60% of staff felt that incident reporting was handled confidentially, an increase from 54% in 2007, and 54% of staff thought that action was taken to prevent similar errors in the future. Although reporting rates were high, the percentage of staff that felt informed about (32%), or given feedback on (35%), changes made as a result of errors, near misses and incidents is low. Comparatively, lower proportions of staff in ambulance trusts felt informed about (17%) or received feedback on the trust’s response (20%) to adverse events.

Read the NPSA's press release on Organisation Level Patient Safety Incident Reports.