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Halving avoidable harm and saving up to 6,000 lives

New ambition to reduce avoidable harm, cut costs and save 6,000 lives.

A new ambition to reduce avoidable harm in the NHS by half over the next three years, cut costs and save up to 6,000 lives has been outlined by Jeremy Hunt. In a speech at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, the Secretary of State has announced details of how NHS organisations can work together to improve patient safety and save money.

Each NHS organisation will be invited to ‘Sign up to Safety’ and set out publicly their ambitious plans for reducing avoidable harm, such as medication errors, blood clots and bed sores over the next three years. The NHS Litigation Authority, which indemnifies trusts against law suits, has agreed to review the plans and, when approved, reduce the premiums paid by all hospitals successfully implementing them. Every year the NHS spends as much as £1.3 billion on litigation claims.

The government will also introduce a Duty of Candour, making openness and honesty the norm across all health and social care organisations. It will mean providers must notify the patient about incidents where ‘significant harm’ has occurred and provide an apology.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

It is my clear ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world. I want the tragic events of Mid Staffs to become a turning point in the creation of a more open, compassionate and transparent culture within the NHS.

We now have a once in a generation opportunity to save lives and prevent avoidable harm – which will empower staff and save money that can be re-invested in patient care. Hospitals are already “signing up to safety” as part of this new movement - and I hope all NHS organisations will soon join them.

Hospitals are now being approached to pledge their support to the movement and all trusts will receive an invitation to join over the next few months.

Other plans to improve patient safety as part of the package include:

  • Consulting on the threshold for duty of candour to include significant harm, as part of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) registration requirements (as recommended by the Dalton-Williams review)

  • Recruiting 5,000 safety champions as local change agents, identifying where there is unsafe care and developing solutions to fix it

  • Creating a new Safety Action for England (SAFE) team that will consist of senior clinicians, managers and patients with a proven track record in tackling unsafe care. They will ensure that fast, flexible and intensive support is available where it is needed most

  • Launching a dedicated section of the NHS Choices website in June called ‘How Safe is my Hospital’. The online tool will give everyone the ability to compare hospitals in England across a range of patient safety indicators

  • Developing new reliable measures of avoidable hospital death rates and severe harm

A strong reporting culture, where safety incidents are reported and monitored is essential to improving safety. The measures announced today are likely to lead to an increase in the numbers of reported harm in the NHS even though care will be getting safer. NHS England will lead a project to accurately assess whether a hospital is reporting fewer, more or an expected number of incidents.

After an avoidable patient incident where a woman was accidently injected with cleaning fluid around ten years ago, Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle has turned itself around to become one of the safest hospitals in the world.

Virginia Mason Chairman and CEO Gary S. Kaplan, MD said:

Patient safety is our number one priority. We’re honored that the Health Secretary is advancing changes in England’s health system based in part on the value he sees in our commitment and dedication to always putting patients first.

Background information

  1. In a consultation on the Duty of Candour, published today, it is proposed that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will include the Duty of Candour as part of its registration requirements. This will mean every organisation registered with the CQC will have to be open about all cases of significant harm including death, severe harm and moderate harm, including prolonged psychological harm.

  2. Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle employs more than 5,600 people and includes a 336-bed acute-care hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 460 physicians.

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