Deaths after surgery higher than in UK

Irish patients more likely to die after surgery, conference hears

The chances of Irish hospital patients dying after surgery are 2.6 times higher here than in the UK, said Dr Áine Carroll, the HSE's national director for clinical strategy and programmes. She said data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed healthcare errors seriously harmed one in 10 patients, but that only 3 per cent of doctors believed that medical errors were a principal health concern.

These figures highlighted both the need for, and the challenge of, change in Ireland’s health services, Dr Carroll said, adding that the healthcare sector needed to learn from the very high safety levels of the aviation and nuclear industries.

However, she did praise the successes of the HSE’s clinical care programmes. She said dramatic improvements in stroke and cardiac care had been made and many patients had shorter hospital stays.

Dr Carroll was speaking at the Hospital Pharmacists Association of Ireland (HPAI) annual conference at the weekend where she acknowledged the profession's key role in ensuring that medication therapy was safe, effective, patient-centred and resulted in quality outcomes.

The planned inaugural Irish Audit of Surgical Mortality (IASM) has been delayed due to legal confidentiality issues, it emerged last month.

About 11,500 patients die in Irish public hospitals annually.

National Office of Clinical Audit clinical director Ken Mealy said he hoped the issues would be resolved this year and the audit could begin its phased rollout in public hospitals. With about two deaths of medical patients compared with every one death of surgical patients, the audit is due to analyse about 4,000 deaths annually.

The HPAI conference also heard that pharmacy IT systems in Irish hospitals lag well behind those of other European countries. The software used is an outdated DOS-based system, which carries a risk of losing valuable patient-medication records and financial information. "Ireland promotes itself as being a leading country in software development. It is not acceptable that patient safety is compromised by such antiquated systems," HPAI president Deirdre Lynch said.

She called on the Department of Health and HSE to work with the organisation to develop a national strategy for hospital pharmacy.