What is a serious incident?

By Jason Brady

Medical drip in hospital corridor

Serious medical failures or oversights can have significant implications for patients, healthcare professionals, and healthcare organisations.

Known as “serious incidents”, these can range from unexpected deaths or serious injuries to prolonged or repeated abuse or neglect. In the UK, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) provides guidance on how to identify and report serious incidents.

What is considered a serious incident?

An incident is serious if it causes or could cause harm to an individual, a group, or the public. Serious harm can include physical, psychological, or financial damage. This harm can be physical or psychological and can include death, injury, illness, or harm to mental health.

Serious incidents can occur in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, care homes, clinics, and community care services. It is mandatory for healthcare providers in the UK to report serious incidents so that lessons can be learned from them, and steps are taken to prevent them from happening again.

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What are the types of serious incidents?

There are several types that can occur in healthcare settings. These include:

  • Patient safety incidents: These incidents can include falls, medication errors, infections, and other events that harm patients.
  • Clinical incidents: These incidents can include errors in diagnosis, treatment, or management of a patient’s condition.
  • Safeguarding incidents: These incidents involve abuse or neglect of patients, including physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse.
  • Information governance incidents: These incidents involve breaches of patient confidentiality or data protection.
  • Other incidents: This category includes incidents that do not fit into the aforementioned ones, such as serious equipment failures or environmental incidents.

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How are serious incidents identified?

Healthcare organisations have systems in place to identify and report serious incidents. The CQC provides guidance on what types of incidents should be reported and how to report them. Healthcare professionals are trained to recognise and report serious incidents as part of their job responsibilities.

Incident reporting systems allow healthcare organisations to collect data on incidents, analyse trends and take action accordingly.

Trainee Solicitor, Rebecca Kooyman alongside Associate and Senior Solicitor, Zoe Diss secured a £10,000 settlement for their client Mrs X, following a delay in appropriately treating a para-rectal abscess, which unfortunately contributed to the death of her father.

patient laying on a hospital bed

Examples of serious incidents

Some examples that have occurred in healthcare settings include:

  • Patient falls resulting in serious injury or death.
  • Medication errors resulting in harm to patients.
  • Surgical errors, such as wrong-site surgery or leaving foreign objects in the patient’s body.
  • Abuse or neglect of vulnerable patients, including those with mental health conditions or disabilities.
  • Data breaches or breaches of patient confidentiality.
  • Equipment failures, such as a ventilator malfunctioning and causing harm to a patient.
  • Delayed diagnoses or misdiagnoses.

Have you been the victim of a serious incident?

If you or a family member have been the victim of a serious incident, you may be entitled to make a serious incident claim. Speak to one of our medical negligence solicitors today for free initial advice and support regarding your options.

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