Published: 20/06/2002, Volume II2, No.5810 Page 5

At the conference, chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson said a total of 27,110 incidents had been reported to the NPSA from the pilot sites by Monday, giving nearly nine months' data.

Of these, about a third of all incidents were related to falls, mainly of elderly people. This worked out at about 10 per cent of patients treated in the acute hospitals, a level comparable to the level of adverse events and incidents that has been reported in the US and Australia.

One of the biggest problems with the data was that much of it could not be categorised properly because of lack of information, compounded by problems of incompatible software between trusts and the NPSA in half the cases. However, only about 1 per cent of incidents were classified as major.

The NPSA said it intended to publish all the data later this year.

The reporting system will be rolled out to all secondary care trusts by December and to all primary care trusts by March 2003, using a standardised e-form so reports can be e-mailed in. This form will be available from October, as will guidance and an improved grading system for incidents and errors.

The NPSA received a number of reports that it decided to act on without delay, and its first alert was announced at the conference:

to recommend the withdrawal of concentrated potassium chloride from all general wards, to be replaced with diluted products.

Junior health minister Lord Hunt said he welcomed the publicity around the figures: 'It does seem to me that part of the whole purpose is to get out into the public domain a very grown up and realistic discussion about patient safety.'

NPSA joint chief executive Sue Osborn said the agency had always intended to make the data available, but it wanted to make sure the problems about data collection could be discussed at the same time. She told HSJ: 'There is no doubt we are concerned about the robustness of the data. The figures are now out, and we have been completely honest about the problem of the data.'