Nurses will be central to the delivery of a “new wave” of national patient safety initiatives to combat issues such as pressure ulcers and healthcare acquired infections.
The NHS has been told to reduce venous thromboembolism and pressure ulcers and improve diabetic inpatient care in a government document setting out the service’s priorities for next year.
The Department of Health is also considering whether VTE and pressure ulcers should be added to a list of seven “never events” deemed unacceptable.
The plans are intended to improve patient care while reducing costs and are part of the government’s plans for hospitals to make efficiency savings of 3.5 per cent next year.
There will also be a “zero tolerance of preventable infections”, and from next April a new MRSA objective will come into force, setting tougher targets for each NHS trust.
South Tyneside Foundation Trust head of nursing Debra Stephen said reducing the risk of patients developing deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism would improve patients’ quality of life.
It will also reduce the length of time they spend in hospital, which could help save the NHS money.
But she warned: “There’s definitely a cost implication to that, but we haven’t got to lose sight of how it impacts on patients.”
At South Tyneside, nurses carry out VTE assessments and apply sequential compression devices before patients go into theatre.
Using low molecular weight heparin for extended prophylaxsis and oral medication for extended prophylaxis on orthopaedic patients has reduced the need for community nursing support and the frequency of blood monitoring, Ms Stephen said.
It had also removed the need for patients to have subcutaneous injections.
Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Hospital Trust nurse specialist Brian Robinson also welcomed the focus on VTE, saying the creation of dual nursing roles covering anti-coagulation services and deep vein thrombosis services for outpatients was helping to “break down the barriers between primary and secondary care”.
University of Worcesterprofessor of tissue viability Richard White said: “Recognising and managing pressure ulcers at an early stage to avoid skin lesions turning into pressure ulceration will be absolutely essential.”
The safety crackdown follows an announcement that trusts will be punished by the Care Quality Commission if staff do not report safety breaches.
Professor White said nursing directors would need to demonstrate they were on the side of ward nurses in order to encourage openness.
He said: “Nurses need to feel supported by their directors of nurses, but these directors have been looking too much towards the management side.”