Patient safety in hospitals: errors decline in UK and now in the US

The CLAHRC WM Director and colleagues demonstrated a reduction in error rates over the previous decade by means of in-depth case reviews in 19 UK hospitals. Infection rates, hand washing rates, vital sign observations, the quality of medical history taking, adherence to various tenets of evidence-based practice, and patient satisfaction all showed an improved trend.[1]

Now AHRQ has demonstrated improving safety in US Hospitals in the first half of the current decade, including pressure ulcers, bloodstream infections, and drug errors.[2] [3] The authors think the reasons are multi-faceted, but financial incentives may have played a large part. Increased spending on the NHS over the years of the Blair Government is an obvious candidate explanation for similar, but earlier, improvements in the UK. It would be interesting to see if the improvement in the safety of UK hospitals in the last decade has been sustained or augmented in the current decade.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Cohn J. A Picture of Progress on Hospital Errors. Milbank Quarterly. 2015. 93(1); 36-9.
  2. Benning A, Dixon-Woods M, Nwulu U, et al. Multiple component patient safety intervention in English hospitals: controlled evaluation of second phase. BMJ. 2011; 342:d199.
  3. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Interim update on 2013 annual hospital-acquired condition rate and estimates of cost savings and deaths averted from 2010 to 2013. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2014.

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