Improving patient safety in radiotherapy through error reporting and analysis

Findlay*, H. Best, M. Ottrey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Aim To improve patient safety in radiotherapy (RT) through the analysis and publication of radiotherapy errors and near misses (RTE). Materials and methods RTE are submitted on a voluntary basis by NHS RT departments throughout the UK to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) or directly to Public Health England (PHE). RTE are analysed by PHE staff using frequency trend analysis based on the classification and pathway coding from Towards Safer Radiotherapy (TSRT). PHE in conjunction with the Patient Safety in Radiotherapy Steering Group publish learning from these events, on a triannual and summarised on a biennial basis, so their occurrence might be mitigated. Results Since the introduction of this initiative in 2010, over 30,000 (RTE) reports have been submitted. The number of RTE reported in each biennial cycle has grown, ranging from 680 (2010) to 12,691 (2016) RTE. The vast majority of the RTE reported are lower level events, thus not affecting the outcome of patient care. Of the level 1 and 2 incidents reported, it is known the majority of them affected only one fraction of a course of treatment. This means that corrective action could be taken over the remaining treatment fractions so the incident did not have a significant impact on the patient or the outcome of their treatment. Analysis of the RTE reports demonstrates that generation of error is not confined to one professional group or to any particular point in the pathway. It also indicates that the pattern of errors is replicated across service providers in the UK. Conclusion Use of the terminology, classification and coding of TSRT, together with implementation of the national voluntary reporting system described within this report, allows clinical departments to compare their local analysis to the national picture. Further opportunities to improve learning from this dataset must be exploited through development of the analysis and development of proactive risk management strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S3-S11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016


  • Clinical governance
  • Errors and near misses
  • Patient safety
  • Radiation protection
  • Risk management


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