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  • Blog: A call for action – approach is as vital as know how

    Patient Safety Learning
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    Lubna Haq, Co-Founder/Director of Claridade, was one of the panelists at Patient Safety Learning's Annual Conference leading the discussions on why and how we need to professionalise patient safety.

    In this blog for the hub, Lubna continues the discussion and encourages us to have conversations about what makes the biggest difference in how we go about our jobs and to share examples of good practice.


    At the Patient Safety Learning Annual Conference last week, with a room full of professionals working in health, I was struck by the dedication and commitment to improving the experiences and outcomes for all patients. We talked about everything from leadership and culture to learning from good practice.

    People attended because they recognise that improving patient safety is a systematic issue for healthcare. So, I was intrigued about the debate we had on professionalising patient safety. I spoke about the critical omission of having behaviours in place – the ‘how’ we go about our jobs rather than the technical competence in relation to what we do. 

    It felt to me that ‘behaviours’ are just too intangible for people to get their arms around and its safer and more comfortable to talk about competence criteria, human factor checklists or training to deal with emotional labour.

    Of course, skills and knowledge are vital but being technically competent is simply not enough. Culture and behaviour are as important as policies, standards and leadership. Without all these things coming together, we are laying bricks on an inadequate foundation and building our house without the cement to make it strong and enduring. Behaviours are the cement.

    We need to get all staff in the NHS to have patient safety behaviours front of mind and not view these as a checklist or a process. Whilst some of the aspects of improving patient care do require policy, physical and technological redesign and process developments, the key underpinning common factor is people. Let’s be part of a movement normalising the mindset to put patient safety front of mind which means more conversations!

    Setting out the behaviours we are talking about would help everyone:

    • To understand ‘how’ they need to behave as well as technical competencies and so making a critical difference to patient outcomes. 
    • By providing concrete examples of behaviour that inhibits patient safety and developing a shared language to describe expectations. 
    • To see where good practice exists and learn from this in behavioural terms and it would help to clarify what behaviours are expected when thing go wrong.

    Asking people to ‘behave differently’ is not tangible and therefore needs clearer support. Patient safety is a complex agenda covering multiple professions that provide care in many settings. So, I am not suggesting launching another initiative from on high but involving people from across the range of organisations in having conversations about what makes the biggest difference in how they go about their jobs and sharing examples of good practice so that we can all learn from this and create a movement for valuing and appreciating how we do our jobs as well as what we know.


    About the Author

    Lubna is a Co-Founder and Director of Claridade Ltd. Until 2016 she was the Global Services Development Director at Hay Group and prior to that she led a health practice area within the UK. She has worked as a senior leader in both the voluntary and public sectors.

    Lubna’s expertise lies in offering fresh and innovative insights into business areas. She has developed, designed and delivered assessment processes, leadership development interventions and behavioural competency frameworks. She has worked extensively in the NHS with Top Teams, helping them to review and implement their strategy, with senior leaders helping them with performance coaching and with front line leaders, helping them to transition from individual contributors to managing a team. She has a background in diversity, is an accredited coach and has published several thought pieces on leadership as well as regularly hosting webinars on a range of provocative leadership topics.

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