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Dates: 2002-completed 2004
Funding: Department of Health's Patient Safety Research Programme
Collaborators: School of Primary Care, University of Manchester;
Manchester Centre for Healthcare Management, University of Manchester;
Department of Surgery, Imperial College, London;
Nottingham University Business School
Information: Alastair Gray and Oliver Rivero-Arias

Medico-legal cases are generated from alleged medical errors and there are a variety of reasons for making legal claims. Analysing the allegations behind such claims is a source of information on treatment risk to patients and potentially valuable for improving patient safety.

The study was designed to:

  • identify the epidemiology of errors held on UK litigation databases, using representative and appropriate sampling techniques;
  • perform a data quality audit of the databases, describing their strengths, weaknesses and potential to inform concerns to patient safety;
  • develop guidance for future data collection from individual litigation databases, to allow data to be fed into a broader system (e.g. being developed by the National Patient Safety Agency) to reduce patient treatment harm.

The project findings of this study are available from the Clinical Safety Research Unit 


Fenn P, Gray A, Rivero-Arias O, Trevethick G, Trevethick K, Davy C, Walshe K, Esmail A, Vincent C (2005). The epidemiology of error: an analysis of databases of clinical negligence litigation. Patient safety: lessons from litigation. State of Healthcare Report. Department of Health.