The board based its figures on a study from the United States which showed that every year around 98,000 patient deaths are avoidable.
No such survey has been carried out in Sweden, but the director general of the board, Kjell Asplund, reckons that the American model can be applied here.
“There is nothing to suggest that patient safety would be better in Sweden than in other countries,” he told SvD.
“You would like to think so, but research on a smaller scale around the country shows that the situation is often worse than feared.”
Asplund believes that one way to help bring down the incidence of unnecessary deaths is to register mistakes and publish the figures online, so that patients can compare the quality of hospitals.
One of the most common causes of accidental death in hospitals is infections due to a lack of hygiene. Incorrect information, for example when patients are transferred between hospital departments, also contributes to the high death rate.
Asplund’s proposal is not entirely original. Both the UK and Denmark operate a reporting system where patients can compare hospitals’ safety online.
While Asplund does not believe that such accidental deaths can be eradicated from the hospital system entirely, he believes that such a system would encourage hospitals to share best practice.
“Healthcare is a risky business,” he said to SvD.
“Because of all the complications that can arise, zero-tolerance is not realistic. But we must be better at learning from our mistakes and spreading knowledge throughout the system.”