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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

Twelve patients reported to have been sexually assaulted in mental health facilities last year

The assaults are among more than 500 ‘serious’ adverse incidents in 2022.

TWELVE PATIENTS WERE reported to have been sexually assaulted in mental health facilities overseen by the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year, according to new figures.

The assaults are among more than 500 ‘serious’ adverse incidents in which it was also reported that patients died, were abducted, or had the wrong surgical procedure performed on them during 2022.

Data released to The Journal under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that there were 556 Serious Reportable Events (SREs) logged in HSE-run hospitals, mental health facilities and social care settings last year.

SREs are defined as a list of incidents which may result in death or serious harm under six broad categories: surgical events; events relating to products/devices; patient protection events; care management events; environmental events; and criminal events.

Some categories are considered to be “largely preventable” that the HSE believes should not happen when preventative measures are properly implemented, such as surgery on the wrong part of a person’s body.

Others relate to incidents that are not necessarily considered preventable, but which the HSE believes need to be flagged in order to examine whether a patient’s safety was compromised or could be improved, such as a person falling in a healthcare setting.

As well as the 12 sexual assaults reported in mental health facilities, there were also a small number of assaults reported in hospitals and social care settings, though the HSE did not disclose precisely how many.

A small but undisclosed number of patients were also reported to have died or were seriously injured as a result of being assaulted in social care and mental health settings, while a similarly small number were also abducted from acute hospitals.

The health service also reported the deaths of 60 newborn babies in acute hospitals during 2022, with a small but unspecified number of maternal deaths or serious injuries shortly associated with labour reported.

The vast majority of SREs that were reported last year occurred in acute hospitals (384), followed by social care settings (106) and mental health services (66).

A total of 250 patients died or were seriously injured as a result of a fall in all healthcare settings, the most common type of SRE reported.

More than 170 incidents of patients receiving high-grade pressure ulcers after being admitted to care were also reported.

The 2022 log also showed a small number of instances of individuals having surgery performed on them on the wrong part of their body, or some who had foreign objects left in them after surgery, though no further detail was given on either type of incident.

Last year’s number of reported SREs was similar to the figure in 2021, when over 550 incidents were also recorded, but an increase on 2020, when fewer than 500 were recorded. 

A HSE spokesperson said that the incidents were recorded on the health service’s National Incident Management System (NIMS), where they were later subject to change following analysis and reviews.

“The data is captured on the NIMS and staff are encouraged to report such events on there,” a spokesperson said.

“It is important that they do so for the purpose of learning and improving the healthcare system. The incident data is not validated at national level.”

It comes after figures reported last week revealed that there were 107,000 adverse incidents recorded in total in hospital and community settings last year.

That figure refers to incidents harm, which may or may not have been the result of an error.

Almost 10% of those incidents were classified as a near miss, with 50.14% of those being classified as having caused no injury. 

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