In this blog post, Charlotte Augst looks at the impact of the Lucy Letby conviction on views of patient safety and accountability. The case has brought debates about patient safety into the mainstream media and public consciousness, and rather than focus simply on one extreme case, she believes it is important to look into common patterns in the NHS that lead to harm. She highlights that while such an awful case—where a healthcare professional caused deliberate harm to the most vulnerable patients—is shocking, it is also rare. She outlines a need to focus on the systemic issues that are resulting in repeated harm to patients, particularly in maternity services. Patients continue to be harmed because of rifts between management and clinical staff, the inability of the healthcare and regulatory system to really listen to patients, systemic discrimination and cognitive bias.
Charlotte argues that while we may find ourselves focusing on the character of a nurse who committed such heinous crimes, we need to pay equal attention to the normalised behaviours and attitudes that harm patients and take place every day throughout the NHS.