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Patient safety to be “cemented” into NHS 10-year plan

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to put patient safety at the heart of everything the NHS does. It is, he said, “the golden thread” that runs through the three key priorities he has already outlined for the NHS – workforce, technology and prevention. 


His comments were made in a speech at the Patient Safety Learning Conference, which took place at the King’s Fund earlier this week. He confirmed that Dr Aidan Fowler, who joined NHS Improvement as NHS National Director of Patient Safety in July this year, will soon set out an “exciting and powerful vision” for patient safety for the next 10 years. 


The Health Secretary stated that to provide compassionate, effective and safe care to every patient whether they be at home, in hospital or in a GP’s surgery, required sharing the learning from the work of the best Trusts in the country and being as open and transparent as possible.


“Safety is not just about telling people to do better,” he said. “Patient safety is about accountability, not blame. It’s an irony that to build a safer system we need less of a blame culture.


“Instead, we need transparency and accountability in a positive culture, where people can have the confidence to be self-critical, because only then will we get the continuous improvement. And we need to improve the systems and processes that support staff. All with the goal of minimising human error.”


Included in the initiatives Matt Hancock mentioned are an overhaul of the way we learn from the care given to patients who die, to be carried out by medical examiners, and strengthening the investigation process.


“At a national level, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch is a world first. It uses independent professional investigators to get to the root cause of some of the most serious patient safety incidents. But I still want to go further. We will set up a new independent body to conduct investigations.


“We have published our Health Services Safety Investigation Bill in draft, and I want to hear your views on how it should work.”


The use of data and identifying sepsis are two further areas that the Health Secretary says require improvement. “We must harness the power of data and technology. IT issues can lead to patients being given poor care because systems don’t communicate.”


A new ‘suspicion of sepsis’ dashboard will measure the number of patients who come to hospital with serious infections and help to identify those that cause rapid deterioration to help doctors to intervene quickly.

“I want the NHS to rise to the challenge of being the safest health system in the world,” Matt Hancock concluded. 


Data published this week shows 2,014,865 patient safety incidents in England were reported to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) in the year to June 2018. Incident reporting continues to improve and around 96% of incidents reported in the last year resulted in no or low harm.


To read the full speech, click here.