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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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  • totally agree with above

    more like it was a visit to see how much more privatisation can be done with his american chums

    roll on 2015 and kick these idiots out..then we can claim back our nhs

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  • makes you wanna to spucke!

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

    Sounds great, but imagine the costs to implement and also culture of society will have to change.

    Would that start off by not allowing anyone unwell or unstable conditions to come in?
    Can't have people dying can we. Probability of becoming more unwell increases with length of stay on acute wards.
    Airport style checks, baggage allowances, pay for own meals (Ryan Air), everyone going on-board pays.
    Then blame game must stop, with transparent incident reporting.

    Is this same Hospital in Seattle, where there is about 336 acute beds? How many physicians, surgeons and nurses? A non-profit hospital, how much is cost of care there, wonder if money just gets ploughed back into staff pay, research, development, training, retention costs, internal expenses, maintenance etc before bottom line is disclosed.

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  • Ryan air would be a most suitable role model as charging for use of toilets would mean patients could at least demand clean ones.

    I know a private clinic which sent their nurses off on a trolley dolly course with cabin crew to learn how to serve patients properly. that would be a good start for Mr. Hunt!

    I gather Virgin have already taken over some services in Surrey!

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  • NHS becomes VHS, Anonymous | 24-May-2014 5:23 pm, I think that is our future, unfortunately. I believe in entrepreneurism, but contributing to destroying the NHS for financial gain is criminal, as is any government that are facilitating it.

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  • Anonymous | 26-May-2014 0:17 am

    totally agree with you. it is inadmissible. if we have to use some of these commercial companies as examples they should only be perceived as role models for factors such as efficiency and working patterns but never for cutting corners to the costs of patients and good clinical care.

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  • tinkerbell

    well it's your watch hunt and staff are still being sacked for being whistleblowers as per Daily Maul today.

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  • michael stone

    Mr Hunt should sort out the rampant bullying and persecution of staff who do have the courage to raise concerns, FIRST.

    Then, he should extend his test to 'concens/complaints raised by both staff and patients/relatives'.

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  • Could not agree more Michael!

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  • michael stone | 28-May-2014 11:35 am

    once again parroting the obvious as if you believe you have suddenly come up with something new and original!

    it is obviously a good idea which needs urgent action but it also needs intelligent and constructive suggestions on how he and others should go about changing what appears to have become a deeply embedded organisational culture within the NHS which will not change overnight and cannot change unless adequate measures are in place to address such problems.

    to guarantee safety and quality care to patients they need solutions and they need answers!

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