Research finds higher NHS patient safety reporting rates associated with a more positive safety culture?

An interesting paper published in Quality and Safety in Health Care concludes that “Incident reporting rates from acute hospitals increase with time from connection to the national reporting system, and are positively correlated with independently defined measures of safety culture, higher reporting rates being associated with a more positive safety culture.”

The paper is based on information reported to the National Patient safety Agency’s National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS).

The strength of the ‘statistically significant’ regression coefficients presented in the paper at Table 3 are in the range 0.03-0.05, equivalent to correlation coefficients between 0.17 and 0.22, which brings into question the validity of the findings. According to Cohen J. In: Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. 2. Erlbaum L, editor. New Jersey; 1988, correlation coefficients values between 0.1 and 0.3 are regarded as weak correlation, those between 0.3 and 0.5 as moderate, and those equal to or higher than 0.5 as strong. Values below 0.1 are regarded as having no correlation. On this basis, the presented coefficients could be said to demonstrate only a weak correlation.

Interestingly, the study was funded by the NPSA and two of the paper’s seven authors are affiliated to the NPSA.

The NPSA has previously been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for its non-delivery of a fully functional NRLS. The system, even today, is still not delivering the learning information originally envisaged in 2001 by the Department of Health (click here) and produced by other patient safety reporting systems around the world. In addition, Healthcare Governance Review was recently critical about the information supplied to trusts by the NPSA from its NRLS (click here).

Readers might be interested in drawing their own conclusions from this research by freely downloading the full paper Trends in healthcare incident reporting and relationship to safety and quality data in acute hospitals: results from the National Reporting and Learning System here.

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