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Patient Safety Congress: Honesty urged on adverse incidents

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Junior health minister Ann Keen has urged nurses to be ‘honest’ when it comes to patient safety by ensuring they report all adverse incidents.

Speaking to delegates at Patient Safety Congress in London last week, Ms Keen said it was a challenge but something that must be faced in order for patient safety to improve.

‘The majority of NHS patients do experience good quality, safe and effective care,’ she said. ‘Where this is not happening then you all have a duty to point that out to people, whether or not they are the top doctors.’

‘I will help you to do more on this, to look at this, because we have got to find ways of being more honest and open,’ she added.

Ms Keen said she welcomed the idea of Patient Safety Direct – a single point of access for frontline staff to report safety incidents proposed in the interim report of the NHS Next Stage Review. But she cautioned that she was not sure that the idea went far enough.

Listening and learning from mistakes is as important as incident reporting, she said.

Ms Keen added that the responsibility for patient safety spanned the entire NHS hierarchy equally but urged directors of nursing to play a part in making the issue a priority at trust board level.

‘From ward to board is not just a phrase, it has to be a reality. If you have directors of nursing, then they have to be at these meetings and they have to be getting this into the minutes,’ she said.

Patients in the UK currently have a one in 300 chance of dying as a consequence of going to hospital, according to figures quoted at the conference by chief medical officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson. This compares to a one in 12 million chance for flying.

Sir Liam also said one in ten hospital patients experienced some sort of ‘error’, though not necessarily serious.

‘The point is that you go on aeroplanes voluntarily, you do not go into hospital voluntarily,’ said journalist and broadcaster John Humphrys in his conference opening speech. ‘It seems to me there is a crisis.’

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