The trouble with safety in the National Health Service: a personal view

Clin Risk 2008;14:101-103
doi:10.1258/cr.2008.080034
© 2008 Royal Society of Medicine Press

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The trouble with safety in the National Health Service: a personal view

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Personal View


John Lilleyman

Email: johnlilleyman{at}doctors.org.uk

Public interest in NHS safety has been fired by cataclysmicreports of thousands of patients being killed through medicalerrors. These terrifying but unreliable figures almost certainlyoverstate the size of the problem, but the matter is complicatedsince there are presently no reliable data and there is no commondefinition of what an avoidable medical mishap is. So a veryserious matter is somewhat clouded by confusion.

Focusing on death and severe harm through unambiguous humanerror (a good place to start), the most obvious way to reducesuch events is to educate frontline clinical staff about thescience of safety – how this has been developed in otherfields of human endeavour and how it translates to healthcare.This will take time – a professional generation, probably,as the young are more amenable to new practices than the old.There are other obstacles, including disincentives to reportmishaps and a present lack of professional ownership of thesafety initiative. But as awareness grows the pace of changewill accelerate and better data will give a clearer pictureof what is going on.

The trouble with safety in the National Health Service: a personal view
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