BACKGROUND: A significant proportion of surgical patients are unintentionally harmed during their hospital stay. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) aims to determine the aetiology of adverse incidents that lead to patient harm and produce a series of recommendations, which would minimise the risk of recurrence of similar events, if appropriately applied to clinical practice. A review of the quality of the adverse incident reporting system and the RCA of serious adverse incidents at the Department of Surgery of Ninewells hospital, in Dundee, United Kingdom was performed.
METHODS: The Adverse Incident Management (AIM) database of the Department of Surgery of Ninewells Hospital was retrospectively reviewed. Details of all serious (red, sentinel) incidents recorded between May 2004 and December 2009, including the RCA reports and outcomes, where applicable, were reviewed. Additional related information was gathered by interviewing the involved members of staff.
RESULTS: The total number of reported surgical incidents was 3142, of which 81 (2.58%) cases had been reported as red or sentinel. 19 of the 81 incidents (23.4%) had been inappropriately reported as red. In 31 reports (38.2%) vital information with regards to the details of the adverse incidents had not been recorded. In 12 cases (14.8%) the description of incidents was of poor quality. RCA was performed for 47 cases (58%) and only 12 cases (15%) received recommendations aiming to improve clinical practice.
CONCLUSION: The results of our study demonstrate the need for improvement in the quality of incident reporting. There are enormous benefits to be gained by this time and resource consuming process, however appropriate staff training on the use of this system is a pre-requisite. Furthermore, sufficient support and resources are required for the implementation of RCA recommendations in clinical practice.