Introduction: The analysis of malpractice complaints can provide valuable information on patient safety. This study offers a detailed examination of the backgrounds concerning reasons and outcomes of ear, nose and throat (ENT) malpractice complaints handled by the National Board of Patients' Complaints (NBPC), 1998-2008.
Material and methods: All NBPC decisions related to the ENT specialty from 1998-2008 in Denmark were analysed.
Results: Deficient medical recording was criticized even though the complainant did not mention this in the complaint. The juridical theme of medical error was the most complained about, but the least criticized compared with six other juridical themes. In contrast, retained packaging, wrong-site surgery, laser burns and peeling injuries were medical errors with high rates of criticism. Complaints concerning accidental surgical complications did not lead to criticism. Tonsillectomy was the most frequently alleged ENT operation in our study data.
Conclusion: Thorough preoperative information about potential surgical complications undersigned by the patient and the newly introduced safe surgery procedures are likely to reduce both faults and complaints. Malpractice complaints have not hitherto been used as a learning instrument. We propose a systematic registration of these incidents to enable more learning in the future. The new act on the handling of malpractice complaints may make it easier to avoid malpractice and to learn from malpractice complaints and may thus improve patient safety in Denmark.
Funding: not relevant.
Trial registration: not relevant.