What is a 'serious incident'?

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We deal with thousands of patients every day and have a responsibility to make sure we’ve got measures in place for safeguarding them, as well as our people, property, resources and our reputation.

But what happens if something goes wrong?

In simple terms an event is classed as a ‘serious incident’ (SI) if our service or care results in one or more of these:

  • an unexpected or avoidable death
  • a significant unexpected or avoidable injury
  • a ‘never event’, i.e. an incident that would have been preventable if all guidance had been followed, that as result has caused harm or death
  • a situation that that hampers our ability to deliver an acceptable quality of service, e.g. a serious data loss or security breach
  • a major loss of confidence in the service, including prolonged adverse media coverage or public concern about the organisation.

Identifying a serious incident

We have a patient safety team who are responsible for identifying serious incidents by using our Serious incident policy; the SIs are picked up from Datix reports, so it’s really important that you keep using Datix to log any instance where there’s been an error or where things could have gone better, such as:

  • a patient becomes aggressive towards you
  • a patient is given wrong drugs, or the wrong dosage
  • you injure yourself whilst lifting or moving a patient
  • patient information is lost or misplaced
  • our equipment malfunctions or fails whilst being used to treat someone
  • there’s a delay in us getting to a patient, which has caused them harm
  • a patient falls or is further injured whilst in our care.

If the team flag an event as an SI, an investigation officer will be allocated to look into the incident and write a report on what happened, why, and what learning can be taken from it. The investigation officer works in the clinical quality directorate, and they’re usually supported by duty locality offices or managers from elsewhere in the Trust.

If you’ve been involved in an incident that’s raised as an SI, the officer will most likely come and interview you to then write up a full report; remember, the process isn’t about apportioning blame – it’s about finding out what happened and learning from it so that we make sure it doesn’t happen again to someone else. The aim is to complete the report within 45 days of the SI being raised on Datix.

We want to be a service that is clinically honest, responsive, supportive, safe and that listens – to both its people and patients. We’ll be re-launching our clinical e-magazine, Clinical Quality Matters, with a special issue on learning from SIs and complaints, so you can read more about the SI process and some real-life EEAST case studies when it’s published later this month.

Reporting an incident? Call the single point of contact (SPOC) line on 0845 602 6856 (open 24/7).

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