Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Epidemiology of healthcare harm in New Zealand general practice- a retrospective records review study.pdf (318.23 kB)
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Epidemiology of healthcare harm in New Zealand general practice: a retrospective records review study

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-12-20, 14:20 authored by Sharon Leitch, Susan Dovey, Wayne Cunningham, Katherine Wallis, Kyle Eggleton, Steven Lillis, Andrew McMenamin, Martyn Williamson, David Reith, Ariyapala Samaranayaka, Murray Tilyard

Objectives: To determine the epidemiology of healthcare harm observable in general practice records.

Design: Retrospective cohort records review study.

Setting: 72 general practice clinics were randomly selected from all 988 New Zealand clinics stratified by rurality and size; 44 clinics consented to participate.

Participants: 9076 patient records were randomly selected from participating clinics.

Intervention: Eight general practitioners examined patient records (2011-2013) to identify harms, harm severity and preventability. Analyses were weighted to account for the stratified sampling design and generalise findings to all New Zealand patients.

Main outcome measures: Healthcare harm, severity and preventability.

Results: Reviewers identified 2972 harms affecting 1505 patients aged 0-102 years. Most patients (82.0%, weighted) experienced no harm. The estimated incidence of harm was 123 per 1000 patient-years. Most harms (2160; 72.7%, 72.4% weighted) were minor, 661 (22.2%, 22.8% weighted) were moderate, and 135 (4.5%, 4.4% weighted) severe. Eleven patients died, five following a preventable harm. Of the non-fatal harms, 2411 (81.6%, 79.4% weighted) were considered not preventable. Increasing age and number of consultations were associated with increased odds of harm. Compared with patients aged ≤49 years, patients aged 50-69 had an OR of 1.77 (95% CI 1.61 to 1.94), ≥70 years OR 3.23 (95% CI 2.37 to 4.41). Compared with patients with ≤3 consultations, patients with 4-12 consultations had an OR of 7.14 (95% CI 5.21 to 9.79); ≥13 consultations OR 30.06 (95% CI 21.70 to 41.63).

Conclusions: Strategic balancing of healthcare risks and benefits may improve patient safety but will not necessarily eliminate harms, which often arise from standard care. Reducing harms considered 'not preventable' remains a laudable challenge.


Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC-14-185)



The original article can be found at

Published Citation

Leitch S et al. Epidemiology of healthcare harm in New Zealand general practice: a retrospective records review study. BMJ Open. 2021;11(7):e048316.

Publication Date

12 July 2021

PubMed ID



  • RCSI Bahrain




  • Published Version (Version of Record)