The National Patient Safety Agency has admitted that almost a third of NHS acute trusts in England and Wales have failed to meet the requirement to generate and print standardised patient wristbands.

The NPSA has issued statistics to E-Health Insider that show that more than three months after the deadline passed in July, only 70% of NHS trusts that were required to comply with a Safer Practice Notice have done so.

According to the statistics, 25% of trusts have “ongoing actions” in relation to the wristbands and a further 5% are “assessing the relevance” or “taking no action since acknowledgment.”

In March 2007, the NPSA issued a Safer Practice Notice Alert requiring NHS organisations in England and Wales to standardise and print patient wristbands and to do this from the hopsital demographic system at the patient bedside "where possible."

The alert said that over a one year period, more than 24,382 patients received the wrong care and at least 2,900 of these related to poorly written wristbands and their use.

It said: “The new design of patient wristbands, the information on them, and the processes used to produce and check them will improve patient safety.”

The notice said all inpatients in general acute and community settings should have printed wristbands by 18 July 2009.

In August a spokesperson for the NPSA told EHI that a problem with the Central Alerting System run by the Department of Health, which is used to send out patient safety and other alerts, had left it unable to obtain data about compliance. However, it was able to release figures to EHI this week.

The patient safety notice now states that: “Although the deadline for actions has passed, this guidance remains best practice. It should be followed to prevent future patient safety incidents.”

Although the NPSA monitors compliance with its guidelines, it does not have the power to enforce their implementation. The Care Quality Commission investigates compliance as part of its annual assessments.

However, EHI understands that it will be at least another year before there is any chance of compliance being reviewed and any action taken, indicating that the deadline was largely irrelevant.

A spokesperson for the CQC said: “Every year the CQC assesses compliance against core standards including patient safety. Because the deadline for the printed patient wristbands was July 2009, it has missed this year’s annual review.

"It could be something that we could use to check compliance with the relevant core standard within the 2009-10 assessments.”

Link: NPSA Safer Practice Notice Alert