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Don't blame all patient safety errors on COVID-19

27 January 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 2


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses several recent reports on patient safety and health quality

When we look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through the perspective of patient safety and health quality reports we can see that patient safety is often compromised by the virus. Several causes of patient safety error can often be identified in reports and healthcare resource pressures, availability of staff and so on caused by COVID-19 and the knock-on effect is often a major contributing factor.

However, systemic, long-standing patient safety cultural failings can also be identified, and it is important to separate the two. We should not lay all patient safety failings at the door of COVID-19 and miss out on doing ‘deep dives’ into why adverse incidents have occurred and learning the lessons from them.

We should not become too accepting of risk and to taking short cuts because of the pandemic. We can see from daily news stories the toll that COVID-19 is exacting on hospitals and the heroic response of nurses, doctors, and others, under extreme pressure. Hospital trusts declare critical incidents over staff shortages and, despite the very best efforts of staff, many patients will not receive the level of care and experience that would normally be given:

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