In this interview, Cheryl Crocker, AHSN Network Patient Safety Director, tells us more about her role and why she is passionate about care homes.
Questions & Answers
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a nurse, with 40 years’ experience in the NHS and university settings. I have worked in a variety of sectors and specialities, including critical care, ambulance service, commissioning and a quality improvement role both at a regional and national level.
How long have you been in post?
In my current post, 10 months, but I have worked for the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) for over 6 years, leading the East Midlands Patient Safety Collaborative for five of those.
Can you tell us more about what you do and the purpose of your role?
The purpose of my role is to support the delivery of patient safety programmes across the AHSN Network, raise the profile of the AHSN network as a delivery partner and to attract additional commissions and increased funding to support the delivery of quality improvement in patient safety.
The AHSN Network has written a Patient Safety Plan which aims to support the delivery of the NHS Patient Safety Strategy.
Talk us through a typical day
My days are varied, I support the 15 patient safety collaboratives. As well as working across the whole AHSN Network, this may include:
- supporting individuals or teams to deliver our commissions
- working with our commissioners to develop programmes of work
- working with partners on joint pieces of work
- raising the profile of the AHSN network through attendance at groups, meetings or presenting at conference
- advising on national strategies.
What do you think are the most effective ways to engage staff in patient safety?
This depends on which sector and which staff group. Having experience of engaging a variety of sectors in safety, I believe finding the ‘hook’ (i.e. what matters to the individual or organisation) and understanding their world are important. It is vital to support and enable the individual to make improvements in safety if they are to sustain this and own it.
Supporting cultural development, enabling leaders and building capability in quality improvement (QI) are the building blocks for safety improvement.
How should patient safety leaders be engaging with patients?
Patients should be seen as active partners and co-design any improvement programme. Therefore safety leaders should do anything to encourage and foster this.
What three words best describe a culture that promotes patient safety?
Enabling. Fair. Intelligent.
What are the three main barriers to patient safety?
Lack of data. Blame culture. Incivility.
What do you think needs to stop, start and continue when it comes to patient safety?
Stop: the vast number of root cause analyses (RCAs) that do not add knowledge. This is not effective learning from harm and creates a burden of work for little gain.
Start: to think about harm differently – Learning from Excellence and Safety II.
More of: being kind, respectful and compassionate with each other. Supporting staff who have been involved in harm effectively.
Can you share an example or anecdote about how your work has had a positive impact on patient safety?
As a commissioner I became passionate about care homes. I was shocked that we paid such little attention to this important care sector and wanted to do more to work with the sector to support improvement. This was enabled through my work in the regional patient safety collaborative (PSC), where we set up a care homes improvement programme (LPZ). I was fortunate enough to work with experts, passionate clinicians and inspirational care home staff that championed and supported this work.
Six years on, it has grown from 10 care homes taking part to nearly 80. The improvements we have seen are overwhelming. The care home staff’s enthusiasm and passion for their residents is infectious and to hear residents themselves saying how they have been involved and benefitted is so heart warming. East Midlands AHSN leadership has ensured this fabulous work has been continued after I left and we are hopeful that we will be able to develop a national care homes safety improvement programme as part of the NHS Patient Safety Strategy this financial year.
What are you passionate about?
- Care homes, ensuring the most vulnerable people in our society are provided with the highest quality of care to enable them to live out their natural lives safely and well.
- Delirium. As an ex intensive therapy unit (ITU) nurse I see the consequences of delirium yet there is so much we can do to reduce it.
- A systems approach to safety, using Human Factors engineering to support improvements. As the patient safety collaborative, we have we have worked with experts and seen first-hand the benefits their knowledge and insight brings.
- Supporting and nurturing staff. They are our biggest asset yet we do not always treat them well.
If you could jump to 2050, in an ideal world, what would healthcare look like?
- We would have high quality data that tells us how safe we are and how we are improving.
- Joined up systems that are designed around/for patients (service users), where communication is effective and patients are listened to and seen as active partners in care.
- Staff who are free to speak up, are supported and cared for and every work place is a joy.
I would hope we would have eradicated some harms at least…but appreciate the definition of ‘safety’ changes over time, so there will always be new challenges.
Can you tell us about a woman who has inspired you when it comes to patient safety?
Dr Suzette Woodward. I have known Suzette for a number of years, she first mentored me when I started my safety career with NHSI and we have worked together ever since. She is tenacious, passionate and has a high moral compass meaning she will not compromise about safety. She understands safety and actively promotes civility, a just culture and is an exemplary role model.
What advice do you have for young females who are just starting out in their careers, whether in the healthcare industry or otherwise?
There are many opportunities, some of your own making. Never settle for meritocracy and follow your passion. Learn to be politically astute if you want to influence and remember all of us can make a difference in our own way (whatever our role or level in an organisation).
Being female can be challenging, I have experienced this and in some cases this is gender, other times professional. Develop strategies to overcome these and celebrate your achievements, whatever they may be. Always be kind to yourself and others.