On 2 September 2020, for the first time in the UK, a list of patient safety incidents “Never Events” within private acute care was published by the Private Healthcare Information Network (“PHIN”).

Although it marks a long-awaited step towards greater transparency in the Private Healthcare sector, there is some way to go with only 287 out of 595 private provider sites submitting adverse event data and with no data collected from private mental health facilities.

What are Never Events?

Never Events are defined as “serious incidents that are entirely preventable because guidance or safety recommendations providing strong systemic protective barriers are available at a national level and should have been implemented by all healthcare providers”.

In short, these are incidents that should never have happened.

The NHS Never Events List 2018 can be found here https://improvement.nhs.uk/resources/never-events-policy-and-framework/#h2-revised-never-events-policy-and-framework-and-never-events-list-2018

Never Events in the NHS

The reporting of Never Events forms part of the aim of an open and transparent culture in the NHS where mistakes are reported, and learning is shared to improve patient safety.

The NHS publish provisional Never Events data every month at https://www.england.nhs.uk/patient-safety/never-events-data/. Once sufficient time has elapsed for local incident investigation and national analysis of data to take place, the NHS publish a final whole-year report which supersedes the monthly provisional reports.

Never Events in the Private Sector

There has long been a call for the private sector to bring standards of transparency and data quality in line with that which already exists in the NHS.

The publication by PHIN is the first set of published information recording the number of Never Events in the private sector. Patients can now view the provisional report for the period 1 January 2019 to the 31 December 2019, which provides information on 21 Never Events involving non-NHS (insured or self-pay) patients.

The publication includes a list of the type of incident and the provider site and can be viewed here https://media.phin.org.uk/never-events-datasheets/

Greater transparency is still needed

The publication of this data is a step forward. However, there remains 308 private hospitals and NHS private patient units whose adverse event data was unable to be published. The reason, as set out in the publication, is because “insufficient adverse event data was supplied” and that these “organisations are not meeting their legal obligations under the CMA Order”.

Whilst the publication is a welcome performance measure, it is apparent there is still work to be done for the private sector to match the data collection and reporting standards of the NHS.