Intended for healthcare professionals


Adverse events in British hospitals: preliminary retrospective record review

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 03 March 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:517

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Charles Vincent (c.vincent{at}, professor of psychology,
  2. Graham Neale, consultant physician,
  3. Maria Woloshynowych, research fellow
  1. Clinical Risk Unit, Department of Psychology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT
  1. Correspondence to: C Vincent
  • Accepted 27 November 2000


Objectives: To examine the feasibility of detecting adverse events through record review in British hospitals and to make preliminary estimates of the incidence and costs of adverse events.

Design: Retrospective review of 1014 medical and nursing records.

Setting: Two acute hospitals in Greater London area.

Main outcome measure: Number of adverse events.

Results: 110 (10.8%) patients experienced an adverse event, with an overall rate of adverse events of 11.7% when multiple adverse events were included. About half of these events were judged preventable with ordinary standards of care. A third of adverse events led to moderate or greater disability or death.

Conclusions: These results suggest that adverse events are a serious source of harm to patients and a large drain on NHS resources. Some are major events; others are frequent, minor events that go unnoticed in routine clinical care but together have massive economic consequences


  • Funding King's Fund, Nuffield Trust, London Region NHS Research and Development Programme, and the Dunhill Medical Trust. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of these bodies.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Embedded Image The criteria for adverse events and tables of results is available on the BMJ's website

  • Accepted 27 November 2000
View Full Text