Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Interest grows in new approach to measuring patient safety


Frontline nurses and healthcare professionals should have more responsibility for ensuring the services they provide are safe, the new national director for patient safety has told Nursing Times.

Mike Durkin was previously medical director for NHS South of England and national director for venous thromboembolism. Following the NHS reforms he has taken up the role of director of patient safety in the chief nursing officer’s directorate at NHS England.

In an interview with Nursing Times he said all staff working in a healthcare environment should see themselves as healthcare professionals, whether they have clinical training or not, and take responsibility for making sure care is safe.

Although NHS England does not have any direct responsibility over NHS provider organisations, Dr Durkin plans to work with commissioners to drive improvements.

His priority areas are general practice, which will include looking at why rates of reporting patient safety incidents are so low compared to other settings; children’s care, particularly the changing safety issues as young people move into adolescence and adulthood; older peoples care; care of the medical patient and care of the surgical patient. He has set up a task force hosted by the Royal College of Surgeons to look at why incidents such as wrong site surgery and retained instruments continue to be high compared to other types of never events.

Dr Durkin, an anaesthetist by background, said the culture of the surgical team was crucial.

He said: “When I was training the key individual in an operating theatre was the theatre nurse: she set the tone and the culture. That has declined over the years but now I think we are rebuilding that.”

Dr Durkin is also overseeing the work of the National Patient Safety Advisory Group chaired by international patient safety expert Don Berwick. The group was set up in the wake of the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust to look at making zero-harm care a reality in the NHS.

Nursing Times understands the conclusions are likely to be influenced by the thinking in a recently published report by Imperial College Professor of clinical safety research Charles Vincent, a member of Professor Berwick’s group.

The report, The measurement and monitoring of patient safety, proposes a high level framework for use by staff delivering services to assure themselves and their organisations that their services are safe, moving away from the main current approach of just measuring past harm, using tools like the patient safety thermometer.

Dr Durkin said this was moving in the “right direction”.

He said: “It refocuses the ownership and responsibility on the frontline.

“We do concentrate a lot on the responsibility of the institution and the organisation… At the level of the individual that safety case assurance needs to be real and lived by nurses, the pharmacists, the doctors.”

Professor Berwick’s report is due to be published next month and its recommendations are likely to be picked up by the government in its full response to the Francis report.



We will be debating this news story on twitter at 1pm on Wednesday 12 June. To join in simply follow #NTtwitchat and include this hashtag in all your tweets so others can see your comments.


Readers' comments (4)

  • tinkerbell

    think this is where each nurse will be needing to take out public liability insurance, especially if there are not enough staff to maintain a safe environment.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "He said: “It refocuses the ownership and responsibility on the frontline.".....Hmm, does the responsibility come with a power to actually change the current practice though? Or are frontline being set up to fail as GP's currently are?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    we're all being set up and softened up to throw our hands up in despair, game, set and match tories.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The Blame game is being played.

    Nurses get ready to demand more staff as the blame is on you if care is poor due to short of staff.
    You have no choice but to be assertive now. Do or Die.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.