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Blog Mary Agnew


Aiming for the safest health care system in the world

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I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday with friends in Somerset and am struck once again by the huge amount of work underway across the NHS, social care and the voluntary sector in responding to the call for safer, more compassionate patient-centred care. It also hit home forcefully the amount of work still to do and the scale of the challenge ahead. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing for a better balance between the tyrannous juggernaut of emails, meetings and ‘to do’ lists, and the time to pause, discuss, reflect and learn. I hope to do some serious learning and reflection next week as I undertake a placement in a mental health and learning disability trust.

Like many of you, I’ve been reflecting over the last week on the inspirational report from Professor Don Berwick and his advisory group, 'A promise to learn – a commitment to act'  and on the changes needed to develop the learning culture it describes, a culture that is ‘buoyant, curious, sharing, open-minded, and ambitious to do even better for patients, carers, communities, and staff pride and joy’. The report is a powerful call to us all to place the quality and safety of patient care above all else, and calls for unified will, optimism, investment and change.  Professor Berwick sets out his key messages in letters to senior leaders, the people of England and all NHS staff.

As the report argues, ‘The NHS in England can become the safest health care system in the world’. It’s perhaps worth reflecting on what sometimes gets in the way of this ambition and what some of the promising solutions may be along the journey towards our goal.

I’m delighted to welcome to this blog two guest bloggers who have been researching, teaching and leading change in this field over many years: Yvonne Sawbridge, Senior Fellow at the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham,  and Jocelyn Cornwell, Director of The Point of Care Foundation.

Yvonne's blog picks up on the emotional labour of NHS staff and the duty of organisations to show kindness and compassion to those delivering care.

Jocelyn reflects on five key issues we need to face head-on to make care better for patients: a reluctance to engage with patients’ experiences, an understanding of improvement methods, scepticism about qualitative data, leadership stability, and valuing the operational.

The Berwick report exerts strongly the need to support the growth and development of all staff, including a clear focus on training of safety science, quality improvement methods, and approaches to compassionate care and effective teamwork. As Government and national organisations reflect on how best to take this forward across the NHS, I’d welcome your views, experiences, success stories and ideas.







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