Serious Adverse Events

What are Serious Adverse Events (SAEs)?

The reporting of incidents is about continually looking at our systems and the ways we can improve them to minimise the risks for patients in the future. Reporting of serious adverse events is about learning from mistakes rather than apportioning blame. People are treated in New Zealand’s public hospitals nearly three million times each year, and many more people are seen in community and other health care settings, or receive care at home. The overwhelming majority of people are treated safely and without incident, but a small number are harmed in the course of receiving care.

Any harm that occurs to any patient, for whatever reason, needs to be reviewed to find out why it happened and if a recurrence can be prevented.

It is worth noting that international literature does not support using the number or rate of reported events as a way of judging a hospital’s safety, as there is considerable variation in the rates of reporting, not just in the rate of events. For example, DHBs reporting the most adverse events may have better systems in place for reporting and investigating events, and perhaps a greater focus on safety within the DHB. Large DHBs are likely to report more events than smaller DHBs, which may reflect the size of the populations they serve as well as the particular mix of health services they provide.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission(external link) is focused on obtaining good quality, consistent data which can contribute to an overall picture of how well the health and disability sector is performing, and provide useful information to pinpoint areas for improvement.


  • An adverse event is an incident which results in patient harm that is not related to the natural course of the patient’s illness or underlying condition.
  • A serious adverse event has led to serious harm or death.


Waikato DHB Serious Adverse Events

Previous reports can be accessed here