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Running to stand still with patient safety in the NHS?

27 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 12


John Tingle discusses some major inquiry reports into patient safety crises in the NHS and asks whether any lessons have been learnt from events.

There does not seem to be a week that goes by without an NHS patient safety crisis hitting the headlines and this has been the case for many years. The NHS has built up a huge back catalogue of reports from major inquiries into patient safety crises, spanning decades. These contain a lot of deep thinking, useful analysis and valuable recommendations. Some recommendations are implemented but not all. Timmins (2018) neatly catalogued the causes of patient safety failures identified in past inquiry reports:

‘Professional and/or geographic isolation. Weak leadership. Interpersonal, and sometimes inter-professional, conflict. Failures in communication. A reluctance to listen to patients, families and staff. Denial in the face of the evidence and bullying of those who raise concerns. All of which can lead to a normalisation of the abnormal. Plus, in some cases an over-focus on finance at the expense of care and quality … “When will we ever learn?” is a common refrain from those who examine the impact of previous inquiries.’

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