Avoidable harm to patients is still too high in healthcare in the UK and across the globe.
Safety therefore must be a top healthcare priority for providers and policy makers alike.
These are the findings of two reports launched today by researchers from Imperial College London. Both reports, produced by NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC), provide evidence on the current state of patient safety and how it could be improved the future. They urge healthcare providers to embrace a more open and transparent culture to encourage continuous learning and harm reduction.
The first report focuses on the current system used by NHS staff to report patient safety incidents, called the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS). The report authors explain this system requires refinement and renovation, so as to take advantage of new technologies and recent behavioural insights. For example app-based technologies offer a simplified platform that engages staff in the incident reporting process. This will not only improve the ease of reporting, but also the accuracy of data reported.
In particular, the report reiterates problems around under-reporting of safety incidents, and reveals structural concerns within the NRLS, that have inhibited its usefulness as a tool to drive safety improvement.
The second report, Patient Safety 2030, suggests a ‘toolbox’ for patient safety. This would include: using digital technology to improve safety; providing robust training and education, and strengthening leadership at the political, organisational, clinical and community levels. Other points in the ‘toolbox’ include effective and high-quality education and training; strengthening measurement methods, including incident reporting, and exploring new digital solutions.
However, the authors warn that interventions implemented to reduce avoidable patient harm must be engineered with the whole system in mind, and empower patients and staff to become more involved in preventing harm and improving care.
Ultimately, both reports issue a global call-to-action on patient safety: both for individual health systems to convert the evidence on how to improve patient safety into everyday practice, and for the global community of health systems to share learnings from each other’s successes and failures.
The publications: “NRLS Research and Development Final Report”, funded by NHS England, will be presented on March 8th at the Royal Society in London. The “Patient Safety 2030”, funded by a grant from the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK, will be presented on March 9th at the Patient Safety Global Action Summit 2016.