One in 10 patients are suffering extra adverse effects while being treated in European hospitals, the EU's health commissioner said Monday, urging member states to take steps to improve the situation.
The most common hospital-induced problems are healthcare associated infections, incorrect or delayed diagnoses, surgical errors and medication related errors, according to the European commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.
Around one in 20 patients catch an infection in hospital. One of the worst of these, called MRSA (meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) was formerly very rare, according to commission experts.
It now causes 37,000 deaths annually throughout the European Union.
"This is an unacceptable figure and we must strive to reduce the figure significantly," Vassiliou told reporters in Brussels.
It is estimated that in the 27 EU member states between eight and 12 percent of patients suffer from some adverse effect of their hospital visit, whether serious or not, according to the EU's executive arm.
Most adverse events are caused by a combination of factors which together result in harm to the patients.
"Patients expect to improve their health by seeking treatment, not the contrary," said Vassiliou.
Therefore Brussels proposed a number of preventive measures for European health systems, though the health sector remains the prerogative of individual member states.
Training and education of healthcare workers should also be improved, she said.
To better tackle healthcare associated infections (HCAI) Brussels stressed the importance of implementing existing prevention and control measures, including high hygiene levels, and active surveillance systems, said Vassiliou.
The key recommendations include establishing or strengthening systems for reporting problems in hospitals without fear of reprisals, a "blame-free reporting system," Vassiliou said.
"We don't want to name and shame at this point of time because we want to encourage member states to look at each other," and adopt the best practices, she said.
One goal would be the development of "common definitions and indicators for patient safety."
"Patient safety is the cornerstone of good quality healthcare. I would like to see a Europe for patients where safety is paramount and citizens are confident and knowledgeable about the care they receive," she said.