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.
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