Objective: To determine, using a consensus based methodology, the rate and nature of adverse events (AEs) among patients admitted to acute medicine, acute surgery and obstetrics in a large teaching hospital in Scotland. Methods: Retrospective case-note review of 450 medical, nursing and medication records to identify and classify adverse events. Results: For 354 patients whose length of stay was greater than 24 hours, the overall adverse event rate was 7.9% which ranged from 0% in obstetrics, 7.2% in acute medicine to 13% in acute surgery. Among all AEs, 43% were deemed preventable by a consensus group and 59% of the AEs contributed to a proportion of the patients' hospital stay or led to hospital readmission. Whilst nurse identification of adverse events was highly specific (94%), its sensitivity was poor (43%). Only 10% of the identified AEs were identified by the hospital's voluntary reporting system for adverse events. The estimated additional cost of adverse events in terms of bed days was £69,189 which if extrapolated Scotland-wide could cost £297 million per annum. Conclusions: This study supports the need to continue the traditional retrospective record review to identify adverse events. The current hospital-based reporting of adverse events does not provide a complete measure of adverse events and needs to be complemented by other measures.
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