The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ can be translated as both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. But when it comes to crises in the NHS – like at Southern Health, Morecambe Bay or Mid Staffordshire – the dangers are well documented, but the opportunities are often missed. Sure, each crisis is often accompanied by a blizzard of policy initiatives, but on the ground little seems to change.
In his statement to parliament on Wednesday (9 March), the Secretary of State for Health remarked that there are two important ingredients for culture change in the NHS: “openness and transparency about where problems exist, and a true learning culture to put them right.”
Health care is a hazardous business. It brings together sick patients, complex systems, fallible professionals and advanced technology. It is classed as a ‘safety-critical industry’, where errors or design failures can lead to the loss of life.
We all want to make care safer in our health service. But it’s complicated.
Last week the Secretary of State for Health delivered a speech on how safety would be improved in the NHS and bold pledges were made to reduce avoidable harm. Patient safety has long been a priority for healthcare. So what will need to be different if these pledges are to be met and where might we look for new ideas?