News

Investing in improved patient safety to reduce treatment injuries

12 April 2017

ACC is to invest up to $45 million in treatment injury prevention programmes over the next five years.

The announcement comes as ACC releases treatment injury claim information on New Zealand’s public hospitals.

Publishing the information is part of a sector-wide programme to improve patient safety. ACC is working closely with District Health Boards, the Ministry of Health, the Health and Quality Safety Commission, and others to reduce the number and severity of treatment injuries.

A treatment injury occurs when a patient is inadvertently harmed during the course of their healthcare treatment.

ACC’s Chief Customer Officer Mike Tully says the $45 million investment in treatment injury prevention is part of a commitment to deliver better outcomes for New Zealanders.

“Injury prevention is one of ACC’s core functions and a range of treatment injury programmes have been developed in partnership with the health sector and District Health Boards to reduce harm caused to patients,” Mr Tully says.

These include initiatives to reduce infections, pressure injuries and birth brain injuries, as well as practices to ensure safer surgery. Infections and pressure injuries make up the highest number of accepted treatment injury claims to ACC.

The $45 million investment is also for future initiatives, which ACC will develop alongside the health sector.

ACC Chief Clinical Advisor Dr Peter Robinson says the figures in the report represent accepted treatment injury claims relating to patients harmed during medical treatment in public hospitals – nearly 60% of all treatment injury claims.

“This is the first time this information has been presented in this way,” Dr Robinson says. “We are doing this to ensure all of us in the health sector can understand and learn from treatment injuries, so they are less likely to occur in the future.

“New Zealand has outstanding researchers, clinicians and hospitals. ACC is confident that by working closely with the sector, we can develop innovative injury prevention initiatives that reduce these sorts of injuries.”

In the future the report will be expanded to include private hospitals, primary care, and other health service providers.

“While rates of patient harm in New Zealand are comparable to other countries, we can and must do better to reduce patient harm and achieve the best possible health outcomes by preventing injuries,” Dr Robinson says.

Dr Robinson says the number of treatment injury claims has grown steadily since ACC cover was expanded in 2005 to all treatment injuries.

“Last year, more than 1.1 million people were treated and discharged from New Zealand’s public hospitals. During that time, ACC accepted 8,881 claims from people harmed during the course of their treatment and 5,002 of those happened in public hospitals – equivalent to 0.45% of all discharges,” Dr Robinson says.

“International research suggests 40 to 60 per cent of those could have been avoided or at least the severity minimised. That shows the importance of ACC and the health sector working together on injury prevention initiatives.”

Last year, the actual and predicted future cost to ACC for all accepted treatment injuries was $418 million. As at 30 June 2016, ACC’s liability for the future costs of all treatment injuries was $5.1 billion.

The report is available at www.acc.co.nz/treatmentsafety.