2 min read

Editorial Tuesday 19 February 2013: From the archives - NPSA reply to my 2009 FOI on Mid-Staffs incident reporting

In today's Telegraph, there is a report that PM David Cameron feels someone should take the blame for Mid-Staffs.

(Politics Home editor Paul Waugh tweeted from the No. 10 lobby briefing that Comrade Sir David still has the PM's full support. Still, so did Liam Fox and Andrew Mitchell.)


Click here for details of 'Francis is coming. Look busy!', the new issue of subscription-based Health Policy Intelligence.


This reminded me of the headline I gave a blog in 2009, 'On blame for Mid-Staffs', so being the unassuming, publicity-shy person I am, I tweeted the link.

The very good question came back from the Twittershpere 'did you get a reply from NPSA'? I did, and published it, but can't easily find it.

So here is that reply:

Dear Mr Cowper,

Freedom of Information Act request: Level of reported incidents for Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation trust

I am writing in response to your request for information under the FOI Act, dated
3 April 2009 received by the FOI team later that day.

In order to answer your queries, some understanding of the NPSA and the nature of the data it holds may be useful. Some background information on the database used by the NPSA is provided below.

Background information on the Reporting and Learning System
The NPSA is a Special Health Authority working to co-ordinate the efforts of all those involved in healthcare, and more importantly to learn from, patient safety incidents occurring in the NHS. The tool with which we collect information on patient safety incidents is the Reporting and Learning System (RLS).

The RLS was developed to promote comprehensive national learning about patient safety incidents. The RLS receives reports about patient safety incidents from NHS organisations, staff and contractor professions, in confidence, on a voluntary basis.  

A key aim of the NPSA is to promote a more open culture of reporting amongst NHS workers, and a core component of this strategy is to provide staff with a method of reporting errors without fear of undue repercussions via a confidential and anonymised reporting system.

It is important to note that the NPSA does not investigate individual incidents or individuals; this is largely the responsibility of local trusts and organisations.

Incidents reported by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation trust
1) Whether there is a statistically significant difference between the level of reporting by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation trust and the mean level of reporting among similar trusts

Mid Staffordshire is a small acute trust and it had a reporting rate of 4.57 incidents per 100 admissions in the time period April 2008 to September 2008. The mean reporting rate among small acute trusts was 5.47 incidents per 100 admissions during the same time period. The reporting rate by Mid Staffordshire was not significantly different at the 95% confidence level (p=0.06) compared to the mean rate among small acute trusts. The statistical testing was done using at 2-tailed t-test.

Please find enclosed a copy of the report on incident reporting for Mid Staffordshire. You can also access the full range of reports at:


2) Date when the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation trust started reporting to the NPSA’s Reporting and Learning System
The first batch of incident reports from Mid Staffordshire was received on 17 December 2004.