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Just culture development and patient safety in the NHS

11 May 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 9


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses several reports looking at the development of just cultures

Over a working lifetime, most people probably spend more time at work than they do with their families at home. In the employment context, we talk about relationships and the need to maintain them. Some view their colleagues at work as a family, where a breakdown of relationships can take a huge emotional and physical toll on the employee.

The development and continuation of good working relationships is essential for the success of any enterprise. A poorly motivated dysfunctional workforce where the staff don't relate well to each other and to their clients means that the enterprise is pretty much doomed to failure. Worryingly we can see some of this behaviour manifested in the NHS when patient safety inquiry reports are analysed.

Kirkup (2015: 7) in the Morecambe Bay inquiry report stated that the root of the problems described lay in ‘the seriously dysfunctional nature of the maternity service at Furness General Hospital’. This led to what was termed a ‘lethal mix’ of issues, which the report said undoubtedly led to the unnecessary deaths of mothers and babies:

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