Friday, June 23, 2006

Europeans find medical errors an important problem

The first survey ever on citizens' perceptions and experiences of medical errors in the EU shows that nearly 80% of Europeans find medical errors an important problem in their country.

A recent Eurobarometer survey on the perception of medical errors by Europeans reveals that almost four in five EU citizens (78%) classify medical errors as an important problem in their country. In Italy (97%), Poland (91%) and Lithuania (90%), the great majority of the respondents evaluated the problem as 'important'. Finland and Denmark clearly stand out from the other countries as their citizens (51% and 48% respectively) do not consider medical errors to be an imminent issue in their country.

According to the survey, most EU citizens trust medical professionals not to make a mistake while treating their patients. Dentists are the most trusted category with 74% of Europeans having confidence in them. However, many respondents doubted the quality of health care provided by other medical professional groups. This, according to the survey results, implied that "trust in the functioning of health care systems could be improved."

Q8 How worried should hospital patients be about serious medical errors?

48% of the EU citizens state that hospital patients should be worried about the possibility of a serious medical error whereas a very slight majority of 49% says the opposite.

Those living in Greece (75%), Latvia (74%) and Italy (69%) feel the most concerned, 28% of Greeks, 26% of Latvians and 17% of Italians rating as very worried. The highest share of those being very worried is found in Cyprus, the score reaching 31%.
The citizens of Sweden (20%), Austria (24%) and the Czech Republic (30%) remain less concerned.

Even if direct comparison with the question of citizens’ personal level of concern of suffering a serious medical error (Q7) is not reliable here, it can be pointed out that when the respondents are asked how worried a hospital patient should be to suffer a serious medical error, they seem to be more concerned about the possibility of a medical error than when they asked in the personal dimension.

All in all, it can be roughly generalised that citizens of Southern Europe and new Member States around the Baltic Sea appear to be somewhat more concerned of the safety of hospital patients while citizens of Western Europe, in particular of the Nordic Member States, seem to have more confidence in their healthcare system.

The findings of socio-demographic analysis are consistent with the already observed patterns though the tendencies are somewhat weak. Women, those in the two oldest age groups and less educated respondents express slightly more concern than their counterparts while managers and students remain less worried about the issue.

What comes to the cross-tabulation of questions, the same remarks can be made as
with the previous question but the differences are even stronger. A clear majority of those rating the problem as important also expresses concern over the safety of hospital patients and, as expected, this is also the case for those who have personal experiences of medical errors.

The Commission is set to integrate the results of this first analysis into the work of the patient safety working group.


Eurobarometer: Special Eurobarometer on Medical Errors (January 2006) [FR] [DE]