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Keen calls for end to NHS 'blame culture'


Removing the NHS ‘blame culture’ around making mistakes is essential to improving patient safety, health minister Ann Keen told conference delegates at the Patient Safety Congress in Birmingham last week.

‘The culture is still about blame, rather than looking at what we could do differently,’ said Ms Keen. ‘We have to admit that we do get it wrong sometimes, but this is very difficult for a health care system to do.
‘Healthcare is difficult and stressful enough to work in without also having to feel nervous about what you can and cannot say. That is not acceptable,’ she added.
‘Health has a hierarchy that can be very difficult to challenge sometimes and people have to feel confident enough to be able to say, actually you are doing that wrong,’ Ms Keen told delegates.
‘We have to stop the blame around mistakes and substitute it for facts. We need to bring the science in to look at how we got it wrong,’ she said. 

The conference, hosted jointly by Nursing Times and Health Service Journal, is in its second year.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Jon Harvey

    I was working in one organisation once and we were talking seriously about the blame culture until one person said:

    "But whose fault is this blame culture anyway?!"

    But back to the serious points that this article raises - blame doesn't just close down learning from mistakes - it also closes down creativity and innovation. Now more than ever - we need the small & creative ideas to improve service & efficiency!

    I have started a blog to support, stimulate and celebrate all the small and creative ideas about improving public and voluntary services.

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  • Jon Harvey

    It is also a very true point that hierarchy gets in the way. I remember watching a Horizon programme many years ago which investigated aircraft accidents. From analysis of the flight recorders - they found that often co-pilots were more willing to let themselves die that challenge their pilot about (say) flying into a mountain.

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