Improving patient safety for a better NHS

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Jeremy Hunt

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, highlights the importance of improving patient safety in the NHS.

Imperial's NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centre joined forces with NHS Improvement to host annual symposium on patient safety in the NHS.

“We are the safest healthcare system in the world” said Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt at the recent annual National Institute for Health Research Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR Imperial PSTRC) Symposium, which was jointly hosted by NHS Improvement. The event is the fifth in what has become an annual tradition.

“The pressure on the NHS is immense” said Hunt, “but despite that pressure and because of our amazing NHS staff, most of the important safety indicators are going in the right direction.  However, although safety has gone up, we still have 150 avoidable deaths each week”. 

The annual NIHR Imperial PSTRC Symposium is a key opportunity for patient safety experts to come together to discuss the way forward for a safer NHS in the years to come.  At its core, the event is an opportunity to share with the community the activity within the Centre over the past year and their plans for the year ahead in the hopes of uniting those who are passionate about improving patient safety. 

The aim of the NIHR Imperial PSTRC is to leverage research findings and embed them in healthcare practice to reduce harm and deliver safer care. The Centre, which is led by Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, works along six research themes to address critical challenges in patient safety. Collectively these themes address safety challenges at the patient level to improve diagnostics and avoid deterioration, and at the systems level to improve care across the continuum, while partnering with patients and ensuring value for money. 

During the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt’s keynote, he relayed that high levels of harm have become the norm and that was why the patient safety movement and the UK-wide translational research centres, which are focused on “feeding” evidence-based solutions and best-practices into the NHS and working with frontline staff, policymakers, NHS managers and patients, carers and members of the public to identify urgent safety challenges requiring input from all stakeholders, are so important. 

He stated that three changes were needed in order to get it right in this new approach to healthcare:

1. We need to be much better at spreading and standardising good practice.  
2. We have to eradicate a culture of blame to allow clinical staff to be open enough to make changes for the better.
3. We must embrace innovation – for example electronic prescribing could make a massive difference with human error. 

    “Solving the problems around patient safety is an awful lot easier than finding a cure for cancer and is within our grasp” said Hunt.  “It’s important that we find ways in which to do the best practice and create a new paradigm for medical practice for us and for generations to come”.     

    “It’s the patient’s perspective that matters’ said Centre Director Professor Ara Darzi. “And that’s why it’s important we join together collaboratively to work towards making changes for the better.  I would like to thank all for attending today’s event and I hope it will allow us to leverage our expertise to improve patient safety and create a better, safer NHS for all”. 

    The event also marked a first across other fronts, including the first time that the Sympsoium has been co-hosted with NHS Improvement and the first time that all three NIHR PSTRCs have come together on the same stage.

    Dr Kathy McLean, Executive Medical Director of NHS Improvement took the stage for the second keynote of the day, where she outlined NHS Improvement’s journey in patient safety so far, including learning from the bravery of families who have spoken out and have led to changes in culture and prompting new policy requirements. 

    “NHS Improvement has a leadership role for patient safety across the NHS, working in partnership with others at local, regional and national levels to improve the safety of care,” Dr McLean said.

    Attendees were also given a preview of the research agenda for all three PSTRCs, based at Imperial, Yorkshire and Humber and Greater Manchester.

    “Whilst we have our own focused research themes” said Professor Stephen Campbell, Director of the NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC, “the confluence of the proposed research across all three Centres on topics such as the transitions of care and the safe use of medication highlights the urgent need for high-quality evidence in these areas.”

    In addition, all three Centres outlined their commitment to and strategies for working with patients, carers and members of the public to design, execute and disseminate research. “There has been a sea change in what “good” research looks like and today, we cannot say that we are delivering value for patients, their carers and members of the community without being able to say ‘we have worked with patients to identify or create the research’. As you can see, all of us are committed and have invested in ways to meaningfully involve and engage with the community,” summarised Professor Rebecca Lawton, Director of the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC.

    The broader event heard from important leaders in the global patient safety arena, including Professor Robert Wachter, the chair of the National Advisory Group on Health Information Technology in England; Keith Conradi, Chief Investigator of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; Mr Jono Broad, Patient Safety Panel Member, NHS Improvement; and many more across academia, front-line service provision, policy and patient representatives. 

    View the photos from the event in our Flickr album here

    For more information and to get involved with the work of the PSTRC, visit their website.  


    Nikita Rathod

    Nikita Rathod
    Communications Division

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    Jo Seed

    Jo Seed
    Institute of Global Health Innovation

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