As part of the government’s official response today to Robert Francis QC’s report, NHS England is announcing a number of ambitious new patient safety initiatives that will position the NHS amongst the safest healthcare systems in the world. These announcements mark a major step for the NHS, as we embark on some key programmes to fundamentally improve patient safety in every single NHS organisation.
In my previous blog post in August, I welcomed Professor Don Berwick’s report on the safety of patients in England. Since then we have carefully considered the recommendations made by both Professor Berwick and Robert Francis QC, and have made rapid progress, working in partnership with key partners and stakeholders, to develop the initiatives being announced today.
The most vital and far reaching of the new initiatives will see the establishment of 15 locally-led and owned patient safety improvement collaboratives to cover every geographical area of England, starting from April next year. This programme is being led by NHS Improving Quality in partnership with NHS England and will bring together frontline teams, experts, patients and commissioners to tackle patient safety problems, develop solutions, and learn from each other. The collaboratives will each be supported to systematically measure and tackle the leading causes of harm to patients using their own innovations, as well as tools, guidance and support that we will offer centrally.
We will be appointing a force of 5,000 patient safety fellows over the next five years to further strengthen patient safety by acting as champions, experts, leaders and motivators to drive improvement. The fellows could be anyone, from a frontline nurse to a senior manager, who has demonstrated in their own work a commitment to and success in delivering quality improvement. We are also planning a structured programme of capability building – giving individuals in every NHS organisation education and training in patient safety improvement to help them support the collaboratives and their own organisations to improve patient safety.
We are providing further support for NHS organisations to take rapid action on patient safety risks by re-launching the patient safety alerts system. This new approach will provide greater clarity on how organisations can ensure they have taken the right action in response to alerts, and to ensure patients are protected.
In a major step around improving transparency, we will also bring together, for the first time and in one place, all the robust patient safety data we have about NHS hospitals. Available online, this will make clear to the public what patient safety data does, and does not, mean about the safety of our hospitals. In addition, we will shortly start publishing data on ‘never events’ at a greater level of detail than ever before. Data on these very serious, largely preventable patient safety incidents as reported by all healthcare organisations will soon be published on a monthly basis.
Trusts will also continue to be encouraged to use NHS Safety Thermometer data collection to help inform improvements, and we are developing a suite of next generation NHS Safety Thermometers for use by specific services or to consider specific issues. The Safety Thermometers we are in the process of developing or planning, include maternity care, mental health services, children’s care and medication safety.
Each and every one of these initiatives, both individually and combined, will have a dramatic effect on patient safety in England and will drive up quality and performance across the NHS. We will provide a wealth of support to help NHS organisations be the safest and most transparent they have ever been, and to equip patients, their families and carers with more information than ever before about care in the NHS.
Work is already well underway on each of these initiatives, with some due to launch before the end of the year. We will quickly be able to see the difference these areas of work are making and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress.