Huge rise in adverse medical reactions

IRISH hospitals have witnessed a huge increase in the number of adverse medical reactions in the past 12 months, with 30,000 more cases reported in 2008 than just a year previously.

Figures compiled by the State’s clinical indemnity scheme (CIS) show that while 55,058 cases of adverse reactions to prescribed drugs and medical treatment were recorded in 2007, just 12 months later the figure had jumped to 83,661.

The yearly statistics, detailed in the CIS’s June 2008 and March 2009 newsletters, show that while a significant amount of the increase is linked to a rise in slips, trips and falls — which jumped by 10,000 in a year — a clear rise in medication errors has also contributed to the increase.

According to the official figures, reported by, between 2007 and 2008 the number of adverse reactions to medications prescribed in the Irish health service rose from 5,436 to 6,785, while treatment incidents increased from 3,808 to 5,373.

The CIS figures also show that the number of confirmed medical documentation errors also jumped significantly during this period, from 2,650 to 5,070.

Incidents involving violence, threatening behaviour, harassment or aggression also increased during the timeframe, with a near doubling to 8,650 cases, while a total of 2,071 infection control breaches were also recorded last year.

The Clinical Indemnity Scheme, which was set up in 2002, is the state scheme which assumes full responsibility for the indemnification and management of all clinical negligence claims in public healthcare institutions. Prior to 2002, hospital consultants, rather than the public hospital they worked in, had to indemnify themselves against negligence claims.

The CIS system covers claims made against all HSE facilities providing clinical services and against junior doctors, consultants and some other healthcare workers. However, many of the incidents reported are not related to diagnosis, treatment, medical or surgical adverse events, with 37% of the reported incidents due to slips, trips and falls.

The 2008 statistics show that 521 claims relating to incidents were made against healthcare institutions and staff last year and handled by the CIS, compared to 469 the previous year.

The most common incident type for which a claim was made related to operations and procedures, accounting for 97 claims last year.

The 2008 figures show the specialised area with the largest claims rate is obstetrics, while surgery was top of the claims table in 2007.


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