GPs urge culture shift as Hunt launches NHS safety campaign

GP leaders have called for an NHS culture shift to encourage practices to report patient safety incidents, as health secretary Jeremy Hunt launched a campaign to save 6,000 lives.

Hunt: bid to make NHS safest healthcare system in the world (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Hunt: bid to make NHS safest healthcare system in the world (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

The chief executive of Salford Royal Hospital Sir David Dalton, speaking at the launch of the 'Sign up to Safety' campaign he is leading, said GPs are not reporting as many incidents as expected.

The campaign was launched by health secretary Jeremy Hunt as part of a plan to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.

Responding to a question from GP, Sir David said the campaign would touch on all parts of the NHS including primary care.

‘We will be asking GPs to have an interest, and all staff who work in primary care to have an interest in how they may wish to improve the safety within their practice or within their community services,' he said.

‘We know that GPs are not reporting as many incidents as we would expect. Therefore we do want to be encouraging GPs and primary care practitioners to be reporting safety incidents as much as possible so they can learn from those reports.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Practices are much safer places than hospitals so it's no surprise that there are fewer reports of serious events.'

But he added: 'However there also remains a real anxiety in many practices that reporting incidents simply leads to bureaucratic and threatening performance management by PCTs in the past and area teams now. This culture and punitive approach to reviewing significant events has to change so we see much more of an emphasis on learning.'

The Sign up to Safety campaign aims to save up to 6,000 lives over the next three years and reduce avoidable harm by 50%.

NHS organisations and staff with the help of improvement experts will be encouraged to develop plans to be reviewed by the NHS Litigation Authority which will provide financial incentives to support implementation.

Sir David said his campaign, backed by NHS England and all national NHS bodies, would work by listening and learning from front-line NHS staff and patients.

‘We are asking NHS organisations to pledge to put patient safety as their highest priority,' he said.

‘I think the campaign the secretary of state is launching today is a real opportunity to for us to work together to listen, to learn and t act. And I hope that everybody who works in the NHS will want to be part of this campaign so that we can truly build the safest healthcare system in the world.’

Mr Hunt announced a new website reporting hospital safety data and a review of NHS reporting culture led by Sir Robert Francis QC.

There were patient safety problems in the NHS that had been going on so long 'we have sort of taken them for granted', he said.

He cited the fact that 'we have 12,000 avoidable deaths every year across the NHS, the equivalent to a jumbo jet falling out of the sky every fortnight'.

'We are becoming the first health system in the world to publish a website that will list all major hospitals with interpretive data about their safety record,' said Sir Robert.

The new website, hosted by NHS Choices, will also have data on open and honest reporting of patient safety.

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