Healthy life-years lost and excess bed-days due to 6 patient safety incidents: Empirical evidence from English hospitals

Katharina D. Hauck*, Shaolin Wang, Charles Vincent, Peter C. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is little satisfactory evidence on the harm of safety incidents to patients, in terms of lost potential health and lifeyears. Objective: To estimate the healthy life-years (HLYs) lost due to 6 incidents in English hospitals between the years 2005/2006 and 2009/2010, to compare burden across incidents, and estimate excess bed-days. Research Design: The study used cross-sectional analysis of the medical records of all inpatients treated in 273 English hospitals. Patients with 6 types of preventable incidents were identified. Total attributable loss of HLYs was estimated through propensity score matching by considering the hypothetical remaining length and quality of life had the incident not occurred. Results: The 6 incidents resulted in an annual loss of 68 HLYs and 934 excess bed-days per 100,000 population. Preventable pressure ulcers caused the loss of 26 HLYs and 555 excess bed-days annually. Deaths in low-mortality procedures resulted in 25 lost life-years and 42 bed-days. Deep-vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolisms cost 12 HLYs, and 240 bed-days. Postoperative sepsis, hip fractures, and central-line infections cost <6 HLYs and 100 beddays each. Discussion: The burden caused by the 6 incidents is roughly comparable with the UK burden of Multiple Sclerosis (80 DALYs per 100,000), HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (63 DALYs), and Cervical Cancer (58 DALYs). There were marked differences in the harm caused by the incidents, despite the public attention all of them receive. Decision makers can use the results to prioritize resources into further research and effective interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-130
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, IncThis is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Administrative hospital data
  • Hospital performance
  • Hospital quality
  • Medical errors
  • Patient safety

Cite this