Putting patient safety first

by Helen Hughes

12 June 2019

I sparked a lively debate about leading for patient safety when I addressed the HFMA NHS Chair, Non-Executive and Lay Member (CNL) forum in May.

As chief executive of the charity Patient Safety Learning, I led an interactive working session based on our Blueprint for action – due to be published next week – that will address the systemic causes of avoidable unsafe care. The session gave participants a chance to think in new ways about patient safety and gave them a first glimpse of Patient Safety Learning’s new tool to help healthcare leaders diagnose how they can improve their leadership for patient safety.  

We had a powerful discussion about how leaders can think and act differently to enable safer care. The session gave non-executive directors and leaders in the room a chance to articulate how they and their organisations can deliver a patient-safe future. I was delighted with the quality of the discussion and the strong support shown for our proposals in the Blueprint for action.

Our proposals led to a range of discussion, including how organisations can transition from a blame culture to a just culture; how more specialist skills in patient safety and human factors are needed; and the role of commissioners in patient safety. 

Another element of the Blueprint for action – how to make the business case for patient safety – also resonated with participants. Patient Safety Learning will take a lead role in promoting the development of the business case for patient safety. 

Of course, while we are all motivated by the many tragic stories of avoidable harm, we must also acknowledge that unsafe care costs health services shockingly large amounts of money. If we invest in designing for safety and in recruiting and training experts, clinicians and staff to take systemic action, we save such costs while reducing suffering from avoidable harm.

We are delighted to be talking with the HFMA about how we can work together on this. We are keen also to find healthcare finance directors to work with us in developing the business case for patient safety.

Participants were given a chance to try Patient Safety Learning’s new self-assessment framework on leadership for patient safety. We are designing this tool for boards to assess their progress against the foundations of a patient-safe future. I’d like to thank all the participants who tried out the framework and offered feedback. It was good to hear how valuable they all found it. Participants welcomed how it would enable them to engage with executives on prioritising patient safety and help their organisations scope future work programmes.

Patient Safety Learning is developing this tool and is seeking organisations interested in using it to improve patient safety leadership in their organisations. It is also keen to work with finance directors to develop the business case for patient safety.

For more information contact Patient Safety Learning at info@patientsafetylearning.org.



You can find the presentation here

The next national CNL event will be on 10 October in London

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