Patients at risk as the NHS is concerned more about targets than safety, damning review finds

Patients at risk as the NHS is concerned more about targets than safety, damning review finds

The Care Quality Commission warns soaring demand and a shortage of staff means medics are too busy to follow safety protocols.

Around 2million patient safety incidents are recorded each year, of which 21,500 are deemed serious and 500 “wholly preventable”.

The watchdog says staff are often forced to prioritise immediate care over long-term training and are too scared of bosses to speak up.

Doctors, nurses and managers are also left confused after being bombarded with safety alerts from too many quangos, it is claimed.

Prof Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said trusts “remain in the dark” when it comes to understanding the principles of safety.

And he suggests bosses should look to the nuclear industry and Royal Air Force for ideas on how to improve.

Prof Baker’s report reveals: “Safety education is not a priority for leaders in the same way that operational targets are.

“Other industries regard ongoing training as crucial to prevent habitual behaviour and errors.

“Staff are struggling to cope with large volumes of safety guidance, they have little time and space to implement guidance effectively, and the systems and processes around them are not always supportive.

“Where staff are trying to implement guidance, they are often doing this in addition to a demanding and busy role that makes it difficult to give the work the time it requires.”

Prof John Dean, from the Royal College of Physicians, said: “We must move from a place where we assume care is safe until something goes wrong, to working in a way as teams that minimises the chances of harm.

“This should build in safety to daily practice, and be open and supportive when error occurs.
“We must ensure patient safety is a core part of professionalism and patients are involved at every stage.”

Care Minister Caroline Dinenage MP said: “This important report recognises that NHS staff’s commitment to patient safety is unwavering but this needs to be matched by systems and a working culture which give safety the priority it deserves.

“We have made great progress towards creating a better learning culture within the NHS, with greater transparency and increased support in place for staff who want to speak up about safety concerns.

“We know we can do more to ensure no patient has to suffer avoidable harm and I want all staff to tell us how we can support them so that safety is a strand that runs through every part of the NHS.”

Dr Aidan Fowler, from NHS Improvement, the hospital regulator, said: “We are developing a new patient safety strategy which will ensure that there is an increased focus on safety improvement throughout the NHS.”

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