17 September 2020 marks the second annual World Patient Safety Day. The theme this year is 'Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety'.
In the run up to this special event, Patient Safety Learning are publishing a series of interviews with staff from across the health and care system to highlight key issues in staff safety and gain a clearer idea of the kind of change that needs to take place to keep staff, and ultimately patients, safe.
In this interview, Yvonne Coghill, Director, Workforce Race Equality, NHS London and nurse by background, shares her insight.
Questions & Answers
Why is staff safety important and what does it look like?
I am a nurse by background, therefore patient safety is an integral part of everything I do and have done for the last 40+ years of my career. Staff safety consists of ensuring staff have the right equipment with which to do their job, are provided with adequate rest periods in conducive environments and are able to access drinks to hydrate themselves and have the nutrition they need to fuel their bodies to continue looking after others.
How does staff safety make a difference to patient safety?
Staff are the most important commodity in our NHS, without staff, the NHS would not exist. The reason staff safety is important is that staff that feel safe, feel valued and appreciated. Appreciated and valued staff are more motivated to do a good job and to deliver high quality safe and effective patient care.
Can you provide an example where you've seen this to be the case in your own line of work?
As the lead for race equality, one of my responsibilities is to ensure the safety of black and minority ethnic staff in the NHS. We know that their experience is different to their white counterparts and we have the evidence, from the workforce race equality standard (WRES) data (and from the work of profs Michael west and Jeremy Dawson) which show that a motivated, well-cared-for workforce deliver high quality patient care, patient safety and satisfaction.
What advice do you have for organisations to keep staff safe, and for staff themselves?
My role is also to inform, educate and support those In the healthcare system to appreciate and value all its staff, regardless of background. The more people realise and appreciate the value of staff in terms of them feeling safe, cared for and motivated, the better outcomes we will have in terms of patient safety. Individual members of staff must know and adhere to the policies to keep themselves safe and well in all situations, on the frontline and off it. Simple things like wearing the right clothes and shoes, washing hands regularly and continuously learning how to be better will all enhance performance and ultimately patient care.
What more is needed to make staff safe?
Apart from the obvious at the moment (PPE) staff need to actually believe that their leaders have their best interests at heart and actually see and feel them going out of their way to support and help them feel safe. Trust is a key element here and staff have to trust that the organisation, but particularly their immediate managers, genuinely care for their safety and well being, and are not just paying lip service to it.
How can Patient Safety Learning help?
Clearly understanding and learning more about patient safety will make people more conscious of its importance and the direct and very strong link between patient and staff safety.