100,000 injured in accidents in Scots hospitals

A catalogue of incidents at Scottish hospitals have been recorded since 2009. Picture: TSPL
A catalogue of incidents at Scottish hospitals have been recorded since 2009. Picture: TSPL
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MORE than 100,000 people have been injured in accidents in Scotland’s NHS hospitals over the past four years, new figures have revealed.

A catalogue of incidents ranging from minor bumps and bruises to broken limbs, amputations and even deaths have been recorded since 2009. Electric shocks, burns, the inhalation of toxic fumes and injuries from “fixtures and fittings collapsing” are also among those seen on wards in Scotland.

An average of 64 people every day have been hurt, the majority of them patients, although staff, student nurses and visitors have also been involved in hospital accidents.

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, yesterday said she was “alarmed” by the total and called for new signage on wards to warn of the potential dangers. She said: “You go into hospital to get better, not get worse as a result of a secondary injury.

“Hospitals should also follow the example of building sites and display how many days have passed since the last accident on-site. In addition, I really don’t think there is enough information on our wards about the potential hazards we face, whether it’s a door that can jam your finger or a steep set of stairs.”

The figures, obtained from Scotland’s 14 health boards under freedom of information laws, show more than 103,000 people have sustained injuries since 2009. They include slips, trips and falls, collisions with trollies, masonry falling down, contact with chemicals and violence. NHS Lothian recorded the highest number of accidents, with 33,967 people injured, two-thirds of them patients and 247 of them hospital visitors.

Cuts, bruises and strains were the most common, although officials also noted instances of patients being burned, scratched by needles or ingesting toxic materials. At least 24 people suffered the effects of an electric shock, dozens were bitten by fellow patients and some required an amputation as a result of a hospital accident. The Lothian figures also show that 3,695 people were hurt at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, the majority of them patients.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the second highest total with 30,262 injuries since 2009, the majority of them, like Lothian, being minor bruises, cuts or scratches. Almost 1,000 people suffered injuries from needles and ten patients required an amputation.

NHS Grampian was third with 11,340 injuries since 2009, followed by Forth Valley with 9,330. NHS Orkney reported only 12 people being hurt inside its hospitals.

In Lanarkshire, there were 405 instances of an injury caused by violence, while accidents involving being “struck by something (eg furniture, fittings)” accounted for the majority of injuries in Highland, where 17 people have also been “trapped under something collapsing”.

None of the health boards give any details about the incidents except NHS Western Isles, which lists every injury including fractured thumbs, ligament damage, sore shoulders and scalds. The NHS in Scotland pays out millions of pounds annually in compensation as a result of medical negligence, with the number of claims rising year on year. NHS mistakes have cost the taxpayer £213 million since 2006. However, it is not known how much extra is being drained from the health service by accidents.

Opposition MSPs yesterday demanded immediate action by health secretary Alex Neil to reduce accidents in hospitals. Dr Nanette Milne, Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman, said: “Whilst there will always be accidents in a busy medical environment, the health service has a duty to minimise the number of incidents on its sites.”

Officials at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – Scotland’s largest health board with 1.2 million patients treated each year – said staff were encouraged to report incidents.

Defending its figures, a spokesman for NHS Lothian said the health board treated 1.1 million patients a year and employed 24,000 people.