5 Dec 2015

Doctors overstretched and struggling

6:05 am on 5 December 2015

An increase in the number of serious harm incidents in hospitals points to an overstretched workforce, senior doctors say.

Figures released yesterday by the Health Quality and Safety Commission show there were 525 "adverse events" in hospitals in the year to June - up from 454 the previous year.

These included falls, missed or wrong diagnoses and the wrong treatments given.

In 2006, when the data was first published, there were just 181 events.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists head Ian Powell said hospitals were dealing with more patients who were older and sicker - and that was putting pressure on front-line staff.

"Our hospital specialist workforce is suffering from entrenched shortages.

"As a consequence, many specialists are working long hours - they're overstretched.

"And certainly an overstretched environment makes it more difficult to avoid adverse events."

The commission attributed the 16 percent increase this year to "better reporting".

However, Mr Powell said while that was certainly true in the past, that explanation was "starting to wear thin" as the number of adverse events showed no sign of levelling off.

The government's health workforce agency needed to focus urgently on specialist shortages and recruitment and retention, he said.

"The reality is that for many people working on the clinical front line, it's a struggle to provide patient-centred care with limited resources and an overworked specialist workforce."

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