Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Until safety alerts are acted on, patients will still be put in unnecessary danger

  • Comment
Would those working in the airline industry take safety so seriously if it were not for the fact that their lives and/or those of their colleagues might be endangered by any oversight or mistake?

Who knows, but it is a powerful incentive to get things right - and there can be no argument that aviation has an enviable safety record.

It is not a boast that health care can make. That one in ten interventions leads to avoidable harm is one of western medicine's guiltiest secrets.

But, what - in the absence of firing squads for errant healthcare professionals and managers - can improve that record?

Almost any experienced nurse in any area of care will be able to point to an example of practice that - through poor adherence to an evidence-based approach or the lack of trained staff - puts patients in danger.

A good example is provided by our piece on resuscitating patients in mental health settings. While it is not an obvious area of concern for the uninitiated, nearly 10% of the 599 incidents investigated resulted in patient harm.

The introduction of safety alerts identifying potential threats was an important step forward in improving health care's record.

Industries with risk-filled environments such as offshore oil exploration have shown that they can be highly successful
in reducing error.

That these health safety alerts do not always find their way to frontline staff and, that when they do, are not always acted on is something nurses should be concerned about.

As it so often is, the problem appears to be a belief that communications from the centre will inevitably trickle down to those delivering care and automatically be implemented. The truth is, of course, that there are 100 ways in which messages
can become diverted or distorted.

The National Patient Safety Agency has picked up on this failure to drive the message home. The key change it is keen to make is to explain to nurses why safety alerts matter. Good for them, but nurses too must play their part.

Responsibility for patient safety is both a team and an individual responsibility. Fourteen safety alerts of various types have been issued by the NPSA in the last 12 months. Are you aware of them all and that they can help keep your patients safe?

Alastair McLellan editor, Nursing Times

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.