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Newly-qualifieds should feed back on patient safety

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Newly-qualified nurses should be used to provide a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ on patient safety within trusts, according to NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.

Sir Bruce told Nursing Times that it was ‘important to involve clinicians’ in monitoring patient safety in trusts but warned that those who had been working in the same organisation for some time might not always spot bad practice.

‘When you have been working in the system you can get used to things. One thing I am trying to do is get people who are coming into organisations, who have a fresh pair of eyes, to offer their opinions,’ he said.

He said he wanted to develop a formal monitoring system through which newly-qualified nurses, who were moving from ‘ward to ward’, could make observations on the good and bad practice they had seen.

Sir Bruce said he had already started work on developing a similar system for junior doctors.

‘I want to mobilise junior doctors and junior nurses to create an attitude in NHS organisations where they can get together with senior doctors and managers and feed back what they have seen,’ he told Nursing Times.

He added that he also wanted to involve patients in monitoring, with ‘safety suggestion boxes’ placed on every ward so they could give feedback and ideas for safety improvements.

‘On a monthly basis people running the wards would go through the suggestion box and consider the ideas contained in them,’ he said.

RCN student adviser Gill Roberston welcomed the proposals although she warned that they would need ‘robust’ implementation.

‘For both newly-qualifieds and students, I think it is a great idea. They often have lots of information they can share to improve patient safety, and it would be a good thing to have a formal system to make whistleblowing easier,’ she said.

Naomi Baker, a newly qualified nurse in Edinburgh, said she would ‘advocate’ such an approach. However, she cautioned that there was a ‘fine line’ between reporting on bad practice and apportioning blame.

‘This could be construed as a negative approach by wards and it could be risky, especially if wards are aware of employees observing bad practice – it could be setting those employees up for a lot of bother,’ she warned.

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