17 December 2018
Proposals have been revealed today setting out how the NHS will ensure it is the safest healthcare system in the world.
The commitment includes a proposal for some of the most important types of avoidable harm to patients to be halved over the next five years in areas such as medication errors and Never Events, alongside developing a ‘just culture’ for the NHS where frontline staff are supported to speak up when errors occur.
The proposals have been set out by NHS Improvement's National Director of Patient Safety, Dr Aidan Fowler, as part of a public consultation to inform the development of an NHS-wide strategy to be delivered from April 2019, alongside the new NHS Long Term Plan.
It builds on the improvements the NHS has made to patient safety over the last fifteen years — including the open reporting of errors and near-misses through the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS). Over two million incidents are reported there every year — leading to national action to ensure patients receive safer care. To date, England is still the only country in the world that has such a comprehensive system.
The consultation proposes that the NHS should focus on key areas of concern — based on the amount of harm caused — where litigation costs are highest and where there is the greatest variation. Ambitions will be set for each of these to halve the amount of avoidable harm there. We are seeking views to help inform the final strategy.
Dr Aidan Fowler, National Director of Patient Safety at NHS Improvement — and a former consultant surgeon - said: "It is a testament to the professionalism of frontline staff that in the clear majority of cases, patients receive safe care. 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.
"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.
"We want to hear from as many people as possible during this consultation to help us create a strategy which will provide every patient with the safest possible care."
Priority areas for the harm reduction ambition could include reducing 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.
Already, some of this work is underway, such as the World Health Organisation launching its challenge in February 2018 to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm globally by 50% over five years. Also, in November 2017 the government announced its plan to halve the number of still births, neonatal and maternal deaths, and severe birth-related brain injuries by 2030.
Elsewhere in the consultation, NHS Improvement proposes that:
You can take part in the consultation by clicking here. It is open until 15 February.
NHS Improvement will use responses to the consultation to inform the final patient safety strategy for the NHS which is due to be published in April 2019.