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NHS is ‘losing its memory’ warns new report on patient safety alerts

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In a report published today, AvMA, the charity Action Against Medical Accidents, reveals serious delays in NHS trusts implementing patient safety alerts, which are one of the main ways in which the NHS seeks to prevent known patient safety risks harming or killing patients.

The report, authored by Dr David Cousins, former head of safe medication practice at the National Patient Safety Agency, NHS England and NHS Improvement, identifies serious problems with the system of issuing patient safety alerts and monitoring compliance with them. Compliance with alerts issued under the now abolished National Patient Safety Agency and NHS England are no longer monitored – even though patient safety incidents continue to be reported to the NHS National Reporting and Learning System.

David said: “The NHS is losing it memory concerning preventable harms to patients. Important known risks to patient safety are being ignored by the NHS. The National Reporting and Learning System, the NHS Strategy and new format patient safety alerts, all managed by NHS Improvement, now ignore the majority of ‘known/wicked harms’ which have been the subject of patient safety alerts in the past and have now been archived."

“Implementation of guidance in new Patient Safety Alerts can be delayed, for years in some cases. The Care Quality Commission that inspects NHS provider organisations also no longer appear to check that safeguards to major risks, recommended in patient safety alerts, have been implemented, or continue to be implemented, as part of their NHS inspections.

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Source: AvMA, 28 January 2020

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