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  • The patient safety leader of the future

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    Summary

    Patient safety made headlines at the recent Patient Safety Learning Conference when Professor Ted Baker (Chief Inspector of Hospital for the CQC) declared that there has been “little progress for NHS patient safety over past 20 years”. 

    One of the interesting discussions at the conference was what do these future directors of patient safety look like? What are the skills and attributes that they will possess? Professor Ted Baker pinpointed three key areas, but what would these look like in practice? 

    Content

    Patient safety made headlines at the recent Patient Safety Learning Conference when Professor Ted Baker (Chief Inspector of Hospital for the CQC) declared that there has been “little progress' for NHS patient safety over past 20 years”.

    Such an assessment feels overly harsh, but in the context of the Mid Staffordshire incident and the more recent events in Liverpool, it is clear that sometimes hospitals do fail to protect the patients they are caring for.

    When Aidan Fowler, NHS National Director of Patient Safety, called for “Directors of Patient Safety” to be appointed in every NHS organisation it was a positive move towards reducing the variation in patient safety across the country. And if the enthusiasm at the recent Patient Safety Learning Conference is anything to go by, then we may soon be able to reach that goal.

    One of the interesting discussions at the conference was what do these future directors of patient safety look like? What are the skills and attributes that they will possess? Professor Ted Baker pinpointed three key areas, but what would these look like in practice?

    The first identified attribute was that a leader of patient safety should be “humble”. A true leader must be able to reflect on when they are wrong.

    Based on some misplaced Machiavellian leaderships beliefs, we've often trained leaders to feel like they have to be infallible. However the art of a true leader is actually someone who can reflect and take accountability for their mistakes.

    In healthcare there is no room for cover-ups, the stakes are too high. We need a leader who can put their hands up when things are not safe, and be an advocate for the patients that they are working to protect.

    Often when things have gone wrong, it's because organisations have failed to be transparent about the problems that they are facing. The leaders of patient safety must be able to be a torchbearer of safety and be humble enough to admit when the right standards are not being met.

    The second element of a good leader for patient safety is “strong values”.

    To be a real leader and an advocate for patients they must truly believe in the values of NHS organisations. They must be genuine and believe that the values are there to be upheld. Too often leaders pay mere lip service to values and fail to exhibit the right behaviours.

    We see examples of bad behaviour in the workplace but too often they are left unchallenged. A patient safety leader must act with integrity and be prepared to challenge individuals when their behaviours fail to live up to the organisation’s values.

    The final attribute of a good patient safety leader is one that works “collaboratively”.

    Healthcare works at its best when it utilises the skill sets of all its staff. Only through a multi-disciplinary approach can we hope to keep our patients safe.

    The best knowledge is gleaned from a wide range of staff, and patients are kept at their safest when teams work together. Therefore, a patient safety leader of the future would need to be collaborative and able to engage a wide range of expert clinicians.

    Only then can we learn to share our mistakes and improve the care we deliver so that every patient gets the standard of treatment they deserve.

    Not all people will be able to stay humble, value focused and collaborative whilst delivering patient safety to an organisation. We must be able to have the right conversations with patients to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions to keep themselves safe in our care.

    Only through patient engagement can we get the full picture and make care safer in the NHS.

    Patient safety is a discipline in its own right and we must not assume all healthcare staff possess the knowledge and skill sets to be leaders in the field.

    Patient safety is complex, it is multifaceted, and it cannot be done by one person alone. We must work to train more staff in patient safety so that all healthcare professionals can see its value and the impact that poor patient safety has.

    We must all work to be patient safety leaders of the future and work openly and collaboratively to learn from our mistakes.

    About the Author

    With a continual passion for patient safety, I use my clinical background within the NHS to improve the quality of care within healthcare organisations. My passion for ensuring the highest possible standard of care has continued to grow throughout my career and it is this passion that drives me to continue to develop my experience and skills in improvement.

    Website:         https://tryimprovement.blogspot.com/

    Twitter:           https://twitter.com/burrellhealth

    LinkedIn:        https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamburrellhealth/

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    Excellent blog, thanks Adam. You absolutely nail it in that it’s not just about knowledge and skills but behaviours and values. @Lesley W and Lubna and I have been working with colleagues at HEE to try and design this into their competency framework - not just for specialist roles in patient safety but for all leaders. To be honest, we’re not getting much traction. It seems to be more about updating the curriculum. Any suggestions as to how to create more influence? 

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    Edited by HelenH

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    For us at Below Ten Thousand it was easy. To teach our students in Recovery, we used a deck of cards. 

    Hearts, clubs and diamonds represented hierarchies in the clinical spectrums of cardiovascular, respiratory and pain management, which form our core clinical competencies. 

    Then there is spades. 

    Spades represents the 25% of all knowledge, the stuff we NEED to know but we are NOT taught in our nursing curriculums, AKA the non-technical skills and knowledge that keeps you most safe most often throughout your career. 

    Spades? Because spades help you shovel your way out of the sh%t!

    The full description is on www.belowtenthousand.com

    Follow the menu to READD

    (Recovery Education and Discussion Deck)

    Pete!

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