More than 40,000 patients suffered “significant” harm while cared for in the NHS in England during a six-month period last year, new figures show.

Between April to September last year, health officials recorded 725,314 patient safety incidents, according to new figures from NHS England.

Of these, 43,518, or 6 per cent, were deemed to have caused moderate harm to a patient which means they suffered “significant but not permanent harm” and required increased treatment.

Fewer than 1 per cent resulted in serious harm or death, NHS England said.

Two-thirds of cases resulted in no harm at all and a quarter were deemed to have caused a low level of harm.

The most commonly reported types of incident were patient accidents, the implementation of care or monitoring incidents and problems with treatments or procedures.

Hospitals, mental health services, community trusts, ambulance services and GP practises are required to report any incidents where a patient could have been harmed or has suffered any level of harm.

The latest overall number of incidents represents a 8.9 per cent rise on the number of incidents recorded for the same period the previous year, but health officials said that this rise was because incident reporting in the NHS had improved.

“It is hugely encouraging to see more and more incidents being reported as this demonstrates that not only doctors, nurses, midwives but all NHS staff feel increasingly comfortable with speaking openly about mistakes and learning from error,” NHS England’s director of patient safety Dr Mike Durkin said.

“Incident reporting is our best indicator of whether an organisation’s culture is becoming more open and transparent.

“The incidents reported to the National Reporting and Learning System are key to patient safety as they enable us to identify problems nationally and take action to alert the NHS to emerging risks.

“This summer we will be setting up local patient safety collaboratives, learning labs that will help patients and all staff who work in healthcare to share their learning and problem solve together across a wider team in each area.

“As Professor Don Berwick made clear in his report last year, we need to support the NHS to become a system devoted to continual learning and improvement.”