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Staff concerns should be key measure of NHS safety, says Hunt


Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has used a keynote speech to call for increased reporting of concerns about the safety and quality of patient care.

Mr Hunt highlighted the example of Virginia Mason Hospital in the US, which he visited earlier this year. This had seen a 75% fall in the number of litigation claims it received between 2004-05 and 2012-13.  

“I want our NHS to be the first system in the world that starts introducing airline levels of safety”

Jeremy Hunt

Over the same period, the hospital saw the number of reports increase from 2,696 to 9,277 annually.

“One of the key metrics we need to measure ourselves on is the number of staff-raised safety concerns, because that’s probably one of the best ways of really measuring whether we have a safe and open reporting culture,” he said yesterday in Liverpool.

According to data from the National Reporting and Learning System, medium-sized NHS acute providers report around 5,700 incidents a year on average.

Mr Hunt said the NHS could learn from the airline and nuclear industries which have transparent reporting systems.

“I want our NHS to be the first system in the world that starts introducing airline [industry] levels of safety and nuclear [industry] levels of transparency.

“If we do that we can turn the tragedy of Mid Staffs into a turning point that many years later we can look back on and say: ‘that was when it changed’.”

Mr Hunt also used his speech at the Patient Safety Congress to call on the NHS to reduce the estimated 12,500 avoidable deaths that occur every year and to champion the special measures programme for struggling NHS organisations.

The health secretary announced the special measures programme in response to the Francis report in 2013.

He said while it could be “alarming” that 10% of NHS acute trusts were in special measures, staff on the front line said the process was leading to improvements and an increased willingness of leadership to listen.

He added: “We have to create a culture where people on the front line feel able and encouraged to speak out if they see things that concern them.”

However, Mr Hunt appeared to sidestep a question from Professor Brian Jarman, an expert on NHS mortality data from Imperial College London, about whether he would be prepared to hold an inquiry into whistleblowing in the NHS.

He said: “We are looking right now at what we do about whistleblowing. We recognise the problem… it’s one of the last bits of the Francis jigsaw we need to put in place.”


Readers' comments (21)

  • Tinkerbell

    how do you reconcile this with all the frontline staff you made redundant? Please explain.

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  • It won't be possible as you are asking managers to save monies from their budget. The only way that it is going to happen is to reduce the front line staff, not filling in position when staff left causing the rest to over work by increasing their work load and working long hours with out pay or even loosing their annual leave because when there are not staff they won't be allow to take their annual leave.

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  • 'Staff concerns should be key measure of NHS safety, says Hunt'

    why does it need Hunt to say it, isn't it obvious?

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  • Anon.

    At "A Trust" Staff are encouraged to report to their manager any staffing/safety concerns and to bypass the "datix" (electronic) reporting system.

    This will personalise reporting, reduce the confidence in staff to report concerns in confidence and reduce the quantity of reports made in fear of victimisation.

    There is no transparancy in nhs reporting....

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  • Tinkerbell

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  • Tinkerbell

    the press are saying it's only nurses now who can save the NHS. Nurses, What do you think?

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  • tinkerbell | 23-May-2014 3:28 pm

    rather a large responsibility to put on already overtaxed nurses. does this mean everybody else have washed their hands of it and gone home for tea?

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  • Tinkerbell

    thankfully not, I think personally it is a big ask, not impossible, but unlikely, as nurses are already exhausted doing the nursing.

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  • One does not need to go to the US to learn what works best, just ask the British nurses on the ground, or are we too thick to assist in this.
    Now, only we nurses can save the NHS.
    I believed that if we are listened to and our concerns noted and addressed in a positive way we can help save the NHS. A lot rest with the government and whether they break the NHS and sell off the pieces to the highest bidder, then as we all know that bidder will claw back every penny and work on strategy for profit only.

    The government must feel for the people they serve, they must be the type who care about the good that made this country. This government must be the type who build on good rather than give it away to swines.
    As the saying goes do not cast your pearls before swines.

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  • I am pleased Mr Hunt had a lovely holiday/visit in America.
    I am sure he made lots of friends with private service providers who presumably are ready to step in when our N.H.S has been destroyed!
    I am also sure Mr Hunt and his cronies will do very well when that happens!

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