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'Safety comes first but what about quality?'

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I wonder whether healthcare providers are so focused on safety that they have forgotten about quality and the patient experience. Or have they simply been forced to just deprioritse those aspects of care?

Don’t get me wrong, safety is a vital priority. But organisations across the system are so stretched simply trying to deliver care safely that they often don’t have the time or resource to ensure care is of a high quality and patients have a good experience.

So it was fantastic last week to see Western Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust named as the third acute trust rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, with the regulator drawing particular attention to the trust staff’s focus on people’s individual needs (see page 5). But the fact that only three acute trusts have received that rating so far suggests there is a huge problem with quality in the healthcare system.

Everyone’s attention is so focused on making sure patients are safe that providing compassionate, quality care often has to fall by the wayside.

We hear much about the fact that safer hospitals cost less – and doing the right thing first time not only gives patients a better experience, but it’s often more efficient.

What’s more, you don’t get hit with costly litigation bills if something goes tragically wrong.

At a roundtable event I hosted for theatre nurses last week, one nurse told me that it was easier to make the business case for a product if it was safer. But what if a product just provides a higher-quality experience?

A senior nurse recently told me that she had been pushed by her financial director to cut back on more expensive continence pads in order to save a few hundred pounds a year. The pads aren’t a matter of life and death, but she believed being able to use her preferred pads genuinely affected patient comfort and their quality of life.

Money is an issue and continence pads are probably pretty low on the list of things the health secretary and trust executives might want to worry about, but for the people who need them, they have a serious impact on every moment of the day.

Of course safety has to be the primary concern. But while we’re busy keeping patients safe, are we sacrificing their comfort and dignity?

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Roundtable? What next the freemasons? - look the problem is in part the term quality is being high jacked by NHS Improvement who are in fact the enemy of every decent NHS worker. Quality and safety are not a simple see saw reaction or equation. Safety is not the enemy as NHS Improvement might say. Without safety there is no quality simple. The problem is Quality is being pursued at the cost of common sense because its the cheaper option. Your problem Jenni is that people are seeing through NHS Improvement and their funny old boy/ girl network. So Jenni are you are part of that network?

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