Big Hits and Near Misses: UNE Patient Safety Symposium

Published 24 October 2013

medicineOne of the fundamental principles of medical practice is primum non nocere: first, do no harm, but for one in ten patients admitted to hospitals in Australia each year that is certainly not their experience.

This year more than 50,000 people will be left with a permanent disability following an ‘adverse medical event’ and they are the lucky ones, with 18,000 people dying annually across Australia after being admitted to hospital and having experienced a medical mistake.

What causes these medical mishaps and how they can be avoided will be the focus of a symposium on patient safety hosted by the University of New England this weekend in Armidale, bringing together more than 70 health practitioners and leading academics.

Dr Donella Piper says there is plenty of room for improvement with around half of all these adverse medical events being preventable.

“People admitted to Australian hospitals have an expectation that they will come out better than they went in, unfortunately around 10% of patients will suffer an adverse event, while one in one hundred will either die or be left with a permanent disability as a consequence of a medical error.”

“Bringing together some of the leading patient safety experts for this symposium at UNE is an opportunity to consider exactly what can go wrong for patients and more importantly, how these medical adverse events can be prevented.”

Dr Piper says UNE’s simulation lab will be set up to replicate an adverse event during a typical medical procedure, giving health professionals the chance to learn from their mistakes.

The internationally renowned Professor Sidney Dekker from Griffith University will provide the keynote address. Professor Decker, previously a professor at Sweden’s Lund University, and Director of the Leonardo Da Vinci Centre for Complexity and Systems Thinking, will speak on the subject of “System Failure and Human Error.” Professor Dekker has authored several best-selling books on this subject, including Behind Human Error (2010), Drift into Failure (2011), Patient Safety (2011) and Just Culture (2nd edition, 2012).

The conference will culminate in the drafting of The Armidale Statement which will be presented to the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission summarising the key learning outcomes from the conference papers and workshops into action principles for patient safety.

The Big Hits and Near Misses: UNE Patient Safety Symposium event is being run jointly by UNE’s School of Health and School of Rural Medicine, with participation from the UNE Business School and the School of Law, and will take place at UNE on 25-26 October.