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Towards a safer NHS in 2020?

23 January 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 2


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, looks back at some patient safety policy publications and crises in 2019 and asks whether the NHS will be any safer in 2020 and whether any lessons have been learnt

The year 2019 was another bumper year for patient safety policy developments and crises. Some major patient safety publications were produced, and stories of patient safety crisis continued to regularly hit the headlines. Many of these were covered over the year in my columns for BJN. As a regular commentator on patient safety over several years, last year was very similar to previous years in terms of the number of patient safety reports produced and the number of crises to hit the headlines of patients being injured or killed by adverse incidents.

The NHS and other patient safety stakeholder organisations have been consistent over the years in producing well-thought-out and articulate patient safety policy plans while at the same time major crises develop showing poor patient care. It is a never-ending cycle of report production followed by crisis management—one does seem to cancel out the other. The result is that an ingrained NHS patient safety culture, one which puts the patient at the centre of care, seems to me to have become an even more elusive and remote prospect as every year goes by. History does not serve the NHS well when it comes to efforts to develop an effective and ingrained patient safety culture. The same care issues, patient safety problems and failures are regularly repeated, and the lessons of these events go largely unlearnt.

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