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17.12.18

NHSI commits to halving avoidable harm to patients in major new safety strategy

The health service has committed to halving the most important types of avoidable harm to patients over the next five years under new proposals from NHS Improvement (NHSI).

The ambitious new safety strategy will halve the number of cases of avoidable patient harm – such as medication errors and ‘never events’ – and will try to develop a “just culture” across the NHS where frontline staff are supported to speak up when errors occur.

The new proposals have been set out by the NHSI’s national director of patient safety, Dr Aidan Fowler, as part of a public consultation as it attempts to develop a consistent NHS-wide strategy to be delivered from April 2019 alongside the reportedly delayed long-term plan.

Fowler said the NHS is leading the way for patient safety, “but we must not be complacent.”

“Our ambition as part of the long-term plan is for an increased focus on safety improvement as this is what patients deserve,” he commented.

“Key to this will be to develop a 'just culture' across the NHS, where staff are supported to be open and transparent about what is going on without fear of punishment for errors that are beyond their control. Continuous learning and improvement must be at the heart of protecting patients from avoidable harm.” 

The consultation proposes that the NHS should focus on the key areas of concern based on the amount of harm caused, where mitigation costs are highest, and where there is the greatest variation.

Priority areas for the harm reduction include reducing never events, harm from sepsis, pressure ulcers, bloodstream infections such as e-coli, medication errors, maternity and neonatal safety, and improving the safety of patients with mental health issues.

NHS Providers’ head of policy, Amber Jabbal, welcomed the commitment to patient safety and “to developing a culture of learning which ensures that staff feels confident to speak up when errors occur.”

She added: “Trusts already prioritise patient safety, but we should acknowledge that more can be done by joining up efforts and sharing lessons learned across all NHS organisations to make sure that patients are protected at all stages of care.

“We look forward to working with Dr Aidan Fowler and trusts to develop a patient safety strategy which is consistent across the NHS and deliverable by trusts and their local partners.” 

Image credit - Dominic LipinskiPA WirePA Images

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