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OPINION

Mike MacKenzie: 'MSPs will back Patients First Scotland in raising concerns'

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We will do all that we can to assist Patients First in achieving better outcomes for all, says Mike MacKenzie

It was my privilege to host the launch of Patients First Scotland at the Scottish Parliament on 27 November. My colleague Dave Thompson MSP, who had been due to host the event, was recovering from an operation and unable to do so. Such Parliamentary events are an opportunity for organisations and interest groups to engage with MSPs and to inform them of concerns.

We were pleased to have Alex Neil MSP, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for health, in attendance, even though his schedule only meant he could only stay for half an hour. There was a good attendance also from MSPs across the political spectrum.

“I doubt there was anyone in attendance who was not moved by the courage and integrity of Dr Holt”

We heard first from Dr Kim Holt, consultant paediatrician and chair of Patients First, who discussed the findings of her recent “Unheard Voices” research on whistleblowing and child protection. Dr Holt is uniquely qualified in this area, having herself been forced from her job after she and other staff members raised concerns with management about patient safety. Six months after she left, her worst fears were realised with the tragic death of Baby P. Four years later, Dr Holt was reinstated and entirely vindicated, receiving a full apology from her employers.

I doubt there was anyone in attendance who was not moved by the courage and integrity of Dr Holt. It is a mark of this integrity that she should use her time away from work to carry out this important research and to found Patients First to help and assist others who find themselves in a similar position.

Following a short question and answer session, we then heard from Jonathan Hazan, chief executive of Datix, on how
his company’s software helps in building a culture and practice that drives excellence in patient safety. Mr Hazan outlined how, by building in a “without blame” reporting and recording system, analysis and interrogation of data can help pinpoint patient safety concerns and alert managers when resources or systems are not aligned to prevent problems and poor practice occurring. He illustrated this by drawing on case studies on the use of his company’s software from Canada and elsewhere showing how this could lead to significant improvements in quality of care.

A final question and answer session followed and we heard from several attendees who gave accounts of their experiences when they had raised concerns about patient care with management.

Often at these events, the informal conversations and networking that take place are as valuable as the more formal proceedings. I spoke with a number of people who had raised concerns, including staff nurse Annie Norman who has recently returned to work after a harrowing three years and who was full of praise for the support offered by some professional colleagues and by Dr Holt.

I am very grateful to those who attended this event and gave us the benefit of their experiences. There is no doubt in my mind that the concerns expressed are driven by that highest of moral purposes - a concern for others. I am gratified that our health secretary took the time to attend and I know that myself and colleagues will do all that we can to assist Patients First in achieving better outcomes for all concerned.   

● Nursing Times’ Speak Out Safely (SOS) campaign aims to encourage NHS organisations and independent healthcare providers to develop cultures that are honest and transparent, to encourage staff to raise the alarm when they see poor practice, and to protect them when they do so. See nursingtimes.net/sos

Mike MacKenzie is MSP Highlands and Islands, Scottish National Party

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