Primary care trusts are continuing to under-report breaches of patient safety, the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson has warned.

Sir Liam told HSJ that although there had been an improvement in the number of incidents reported in primary care, there were still too many going unreported.

He was speaking ahead of a National Patient Safety Agency conference today at which he is due to launch Safety First: one year on, a review of progress on the patient safety report he wrote last year.

He told HSJ that primary care was lagging behind secondary care in its reporting.

'I want to see better reporting in primary care. There are just not the same number of incidents reported as there are in secondary care. Although the incidents are less serious they are there and they do need to be reported,' he said.

Sir Liam added that, although the number of serious incidents reported in secondary care had improved, these figures were also lower than expected.

'We have done much to try and implement a blame-free culture in the NHS and we must reiterate to frontline staff that it is not their fault most of the time, it is something that has been provoked by the environment or system within which they are working.'

Sir Liam said the NHS had made 'sound progress' on improving patient safety over the last year but said that it could not 'afford to rest here'.

NPSA chief executive Martin Fletcher said the NHS was now realising the importance of patient safety. 'We are getting greater engagement from boards,' he said.

  • Sir Liam will join Institute for Healthcare Improvement chief executive Don Berwick as a keynote speaker at the Patient Safety Congress 2008. The congress has been developed by HSJ, Nursing Times, the National Patient Safety Agency, the Health Foundation, the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and Microsoft.