Data and statistics

European data, mostly from European Union Member States, consistently show that medical errors and health-care related adverse events occur in 8% to 12% of hospitalizations. For example, the United Kingdom Department of Health, in its 2000 report An organisation with a memory, estimated about 850 000 adverse events a year (10% of hospital admissions). Spain (in its 2005 national study of adverse events) and France and Denmark have published incidence studies with similar results.

Infections associated with health care affect an estimated 1 in 20 hospital patients on average every year (estimated at 4.1 million patients) with the four most common types being: urinary tract infections (27%), lower respiratory tract infections (24%), surgical site infections (17%) and bloodstream infections (10.5%). Multiresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is isolated in about 5% of all infections associated with health care. The United Kingdom National Audit Office estimates the cost of such infections at £1 billion per year.

While 23% of European Union citizens claim to have been directly affected by medical error, 18% claim to have experienced a serious medical error in a hospital and 11% to have been prescribed wrong medication. Evidence on medical errors shows that 50% to 70.2% of such harm can be prevented through comprehensive systematic approaches to patient safety.

Statistics show that strategies to reduce the rate of adverse events in the European Union alone would lead to the prevention of more than 750 000 harm-inflicting medical errors per year, leading in turn to over 3.2 million fewer days of hospitalization, 260 000 fewer incidents of permanent disability, and 95 000 fewer deaths per year.