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Tory underfunding blamed for 5,000 deaths in hospital

FAILURE to invest in the NHS has seen nearly 5,000 patients die in “safety incidents” in understaffed hospitals, Labour has warned. 

New analysis of NHS National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) statistics by Labour has shown that 4,668 deaths in the NHS from October 2018 to last month were linked to such incidents.

In the statistics, patient safety incidents are defined as unexpected or unintended occurrences which could have led to harm for people who were in need of or receiving healthcare.

The incidents are logged and reported to the NHS for future investigation and to help workers understand and learn from mistakes.

The guidance for submissions to the recording system states that the degree of harm in incidents should be recorded as death “where death is directly attributable to a patient safety incident.”

Of these recorded deaths, 530 were linked to patient safety incidents in mental health trusts, while 73 were connected to incidents that occurred in ambulance trusts. 

The news comes after concerns have been repeatedly raised about the consequences of cuts, underfunding and lack of real investment in NHS structures and personnel.

Last month, senior NHS figures said the health service faces a “staffing crisis”, with over nine out of 10 health bosses warning that understaffing was so severe that patient safety will be seriously affected. 

The Care Quality Commission reported in December last year that the NHS had not made enough progress in improving patient safety over the past two decades, and that a total change of culture is needed to stop “avoidable harm” to patients.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the party will legislate for safe staffing levels to improve patient safety. 

He said: “These figures are heartbreaking and our thoughts are with the families who have lost a loved one in these circumstances.

“Years of Tory cutbacks, understaffing and failing to prepare for rising pressures puts patients seriously at risk.

“Patient safety must always be a priority, which is why Labour will invest in the NHS properly and recruit the staff our health service needs.”

Mr Ashworth has pledged that a Labour government would make NHS care safer for patients by putting patient safety “front and centre.”

NHS England said it would not comment on the finding during the election campaign.

Unision general secretary Dave Prentis told the Morning Star: “The health service is at breaking point after nine years of underinvestment and budget cuts.

“Staff are working flat out to deliver a service despite falling recruitment and retention rates.

“Without immediate and sustained investment from the next government, the decline will continue and it’ll be patients and staff paying the price.”

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