A Focus on Patient Safety: time to sharpen up our act!

There seems to be no end to medical scandals in the media. In the UK, the focus recently has been on the Francis Report into care at the Mid-Staffordhire NHS Foundation Trust. The report found that there had been a focus on targets rather than on patient safety and quality of care. A real concern was expressed about the apparent silence of medical staff in raising concerns about the problems. The recommendations of the Francis report are wide ranging, but it is a wake up call for health professionals to take ownership and responsibility for the safety of patients under their care. We need to ask serious questions about quality of care and be prepared to speak out to expose problems – even when we do not have a ‘managerial’ responsibility.

If you can spare an hour of your time, why not have a look at this video from the patient safety congress. Thanks to Anne Marie Cunningham (@amcunningham) for sharing it. The first talk is by Jeff Skiles, an experienced airline captain who recently had to ditch his plane into the Hudson river – the second is by a doctor who is trying to apply some of the lessons learned in aviation in the health care situation. Note that his co-captain Sully Sullenberger also lectures on aviation safety (@CaptScully).

At the recent NI Confederation conference in Londonderry (#NICON13 on Twitter) one of the speakers from the Southern Health Trust Hugh McCaughey gave us six safety questions every service should be asking of themselves.

  1. How can we prove that our service is safe?
  2. What are our team’s objectives?
  3. What would success look like to our team?
  4. Can you provide evidence that we are learning lessons as we go along?
  5. What do users think of our service?
  6. What outcomes are we achieving?

These are tough questions, but I think that it is a useful exercise. In the next series of posts I am going to look at each safety question in turn for our own service. I will be asking other members of the team to contribute to this discussion so that our final statement will be agreed by the team.