latest health care news

27.09.18

Hancock asks NHSI director to draft 10-year patient safety plan

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has asked Dr Aidan Fowler, the new NHS director of patient safety, to lead on a new 10-year national patient safety strategy.

Speaking at the Patient Safety Learning Conference at The King’s Fund yesterday, the secretary of state paid “heartfelt tribute” to former health boss Jeremy Hunt, who prioritised patient safety as his top ambition during his tenure. “Be in no doubt: we will drive it for years and years to come,” Hancock pledged.

He revealed that in the first few days in the new job, he agreed that Fowler would draft an “exciting and powerful vision for patient safety over the next decade,” with a strategy due soon. This will then tie into the broader NHS 10-year plan to ensure that safety is “cemented” into the long-term proposal.

“Every patient – whether in hospital, at home, in a GP surgery – expects compassionate, effective and safe care,” said Hancock. “To achieve that, we need to improve learning, we need to better shout about the work that the best trusts are doing, and the NHS must be as open and transparent as we can.

“I also know that there’s often a case of information overload. Multiple patient safety alerts about a huge range of issues, meaning it’s hard to prioritise which matters the most. So Aidan Fowler will head up a group of experts who will help you understand the clear actions that need to be taken, protecting patients from the most serious risks.”

When he first took up the post in July, the health secretary did not list patient safety as one of his three early priorities – workforce, technology and prevention – choosing instead to centre his efforts around improving the NHS’s digital capabilities.

But in his speech yesterday, he assured listeners that patient safety is the “golden thread that runs through” all of these priorities.

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

“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.”

His speech came just a couple of days after shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the Labour Party would be looking to amend the upcoming Health Service Safety Investigations Bill if the government failed to use the extra funding to ensure patients are safe from “rogue apps and private tech developers.”

“It’s time to put patient safety ahead of the bottom line – a Labour government will put patient safety at the very heart of our plans for the NHS,” he told delegates at the Labour Party Conference.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Hancock stressed in his King’s Fund speech: “Improving patient safety is a determined and unwavering commitment for us all. We must constantly strive to listen to patients and their families and listen to staff so that we can learn from mistakes, be innovative and continually improve.

“We need a culture of humility, openness and learning. There is no room for complacency.”

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