NHS Improvement has launched a consultation to help the NHS ‘be the safest healthcare system in the world’, it has said.
The consultation, launched last week, sets out a series of different proposals, including halving key types of avoidable harm to patients over the next five years and developing a ‘just culture’ that will enable staff to speak up when errors occur.
These are some of the proposals presented in Developing a patient safety strategy for the NHS, a draft document for which NHS Improvement is seeking frontline staff’s views before it finalises a strategy, to be delivered from April 2019.
According to the document, the consultation should focus on areas where litigation costs are the highest and where more variation is recorded.
A report by NHS Resolution published in July found that the cost of clinical negligence claims by patients has doubled this year, with NHS England paying out more than £1.63bn in damage settlements in 2017/18.
The strategy proposes to focus on areas that will help the NHS reduce ‘never events, harm from sepsis, pressure ulcers, gram-negative bloodstream infection such as e-coli, falls, medication errors, improving maternity and neonatal safety, and improving the safety of patients with mental health issues’.
Other proposals include:
- The creation of a patient safety curriculum for current and future NHS staff
- The introduction of senior patient safety specialists, who should be part of both provider organisations and NHS regional teams, regulators and commissioners
- The development of a patient safety support team that can work with organisation struggling in relation to safety
- The development of a new reporting system, which will replace the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) database and will ‘explore using artificial intelligence to dig deeper into data so patient safety risks and improvements can be identified more quickly’.
‘The safest healthcare system in the world’
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: ‘Our strategy will contain bold, staff-driven initiatives, which will help us to build the safest healthcare system in the world, underpinned by a no-blame culture that champions people to speak up when things go wrong and learn from their mistakes.’
In February, the then health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt presented plans to crack down on medication dispensing errors as part of his focus on improving patients safety in the NHS.
However, NHS Improvement national director of patient safety Dr Aidan Fowler said that although the NHS is leading the way for patient safety, ‘we must not be complacent’.
He added: ‘Our ambition as part of the long term plan is for an increased focus on safety improvement as this is what patients deserve.
‘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.’
Responding to the launch of the consultation, NHS Providers head of policy Amber Jabbal said:
‘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.’