A new report analysing developed countries finds Estonia, Israel and Austria provide safer care than the UK, which ranked 21 out of 38.

It found that more than 17,000 deaths could have been prevented in the UK during 2019 if it performed at the same level as the top 10 countries.

Data on patient safety and care from 38 developed countries was analysed by researchers at the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London.

The Global State of Patient Safety 2023 used four main patient safety indicators to rank the countries: maternal mortality, treatable mortality, adverse effects of medical treatment and neonatal disorders.

The report, ‘Global State of Patient Safety’, was commissioned by the charity Patient Safety Watch and included the 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It stated: “Our patient safety country ranking highlights existing variations in performance and clear opportunities for shared international learning.”

Norway achieved the top place, followed by Sweden and South Korea. The UK ranked 21st and the lowest ranked country was Mexico.

The authors said: “The ranking also highlights the variation that exists across comparable countries. Using only the four selected metrics, we see that the UK could have had 17,356 fewer deaths annually had it performed at the level of the top decile of OECD countries.”

These 17,356 preventable deaths consisted of 15,773 treatable mortalities, 776 deaths due to neonatal disorders, 27 maternal mortalities and 780 deaths due to adverse effects of medical treatment.

Authors of the report highlighted that many other patients have survived inadequate care and consequently live with avoidable physical or mental disabilities which are not accounted for or measured by this report.

Patient safety will continue to suffer and be delayed, putting patients at risk, without more global cooperation and reporting of data, warned the researchers.

No country could provide all 89 indicators used by the researchers, which included the four key indicators used to create the ranking.

The ranking was decided using standard deviation. An average safety score using all 38 countries was calculated before each individual country was assessed and ranked on how its performance varied from that average.

Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, co-director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, said: “To enhance patient safety, we must first recognise that progress is impossible without measurement.

“Our report underscores the urgent need to establish a robust global framework for collecting comprehensive patient safety data, addressing existing data gaps, and implementing meaningful indicators.

“Collaboration is the key to progress, and it is imperative that we work together to elevate patient safety.”

He added: “Patient safety should be evaluated through the lens of the patient, and we must wholeheartedly embrace interventions that incorporate the perspectives of patients, families, and caregivers.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Patient safety is paramount, and any death caused by failings in this area is unacceptable. As this report recognises, the UK has taken significant steps to improve the safety of care.

“We have delivered the first NHS Patient Safety Strategy and appointed the first Patient Safety Commissioner to make patients’ voices heard throughout the health system.

“We have also established a new independent body – the Health Services Safety Investigations Body – to investigate serious patient safety incidents and embed system-wide learning, and last week announced a review into the NHS duty of candour.”

James Titcombe, of Patient Safety Watch, explained: “Analysis of the data shows that thousands of lives could be saved if the NHS was as safe as the top performing countries and that the NHS in England ranks only 21 out of 38 countries for patient safety.

“This must serve as a wake up call for the government and NHS leaders that we must do more to accelerate the pace of change.”

Mr Titcombe became a patient safety campaigner following the death of his son, Joshua, nine days after he was born in 2008 due to insufficient care. Joshua was one of 11 babies and a mother who died within nine years at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

“Healthcare systems around the world operate in different and often unique circumstances, but when it comes to patient safety, they are frequently working to solve similar problems,” continued Mr Titcombe. “Global collaboration, sharing data and strategies and interventions adopted to improve patient safety, has huge potential to help transform the rate of progress not just in the UK but everywhere.”

He added: “I hope today’s report and the publicly available data platform can act as a catalyst in supporting future efforts to accelerate the rate of patient safety progress, both here and around the world.”

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Twice daily dairy intakes could reduce type 2 diabetes risk

Eating cheese, yoghurt or eggs twice a day could help lower the…

Coronavirus: UK instructed to stay at home this weekend

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that staying at home this weekend…

Top diabetes professor drafts risk assessment document for frontline COVID-19 staff

The health and wellbeing of frontline NHS staff has been prioritised among…