Article Text

Download PDFPDF
No-fault compensation for treatment injury in New Zealand: identifying threats to patient safety in primary care
  1. Katharine Wallis,
  2. Susan Dovey
  1. Department of General Practice and Rural Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katharine Wallis, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand; katharine.wallis{at}


Background In 2005, the injury compensation legislation in New Zealand was reformed to extend coverage for medical injury removing both ‘error’ and ‘severity’ from eligibility criteria. This led to an increase in claiming and claims acceptance rate, thus enlarging the treatment injury claims database. This database provides an unusual ‘no-fault’ perspective of patient safety events.

Methods The authors analysed the first 4 years of primary care treatment injury claims data to identify the type, incidence, severity and cause of injury in primary care.

Results There were 6007 primary care treatment injury claims; 64% were accepted as treatment injuries. Most claims arose in general practice (62%), and most claimants were female (62%). Most claims were assessed as minor (83%), 12% major, 4% serious and 1% sentinel. Medication caused most injuries (38%) and most serious and sentinel injuries (60%). Dental treatment caused 16% of injuries; injections and vaccinations combined caused 10%; and venepuncture, cryotherapy and ear syringing combined caused 13.5% of injuries, mostly minor. ‘Delay in diagnosis’ caused few injuries overall (2%), but a disproportionate number of serious and sentinel injuries (16%) and deaths (50%). Spinal/ neck manipulation caused 2% of serious and sentinel injuries.

Conclusions New Zealand's no-fault treatment injury claims database provides information about primary care patient safety events from an unusual ‘no-fault’ perspective. This analysis reinforces previous research identifying medication as a high-risk primary care activity and further identifies other primary care activities (dental care, injections, venepuncture, cryotherapy and ear syringing) as carrying important risks for patient harm.

  • Adverse event
  • general practice
  • health policy
  • patient safety
  • primary care

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding University of Otago, Emily Johnston PhD Scholarship.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.