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Home » Latest News » Considerations of Patient Safety

Considerations of Patient Safety

Considerations of Patient Safety

This article will consider what patient safety means, what can be done to ensure it is achieved, and what support and protection is available when patients suffer avoidable harm.

What does patient safety mean?

Before writing this article, I asked two people, one with a nursing background, and another who hasn’t, what patient safety meant to them. Their answers were similar and both commented on the importance of ensuring patients come to no harm whether this be in a hospital setting, a nursing home, or even in a patient’s own home.

Unfortunately, health care professionals are not immune to making mistakes and expecting perfection from those working in difficult and highly stressful environments is unrealistic. The reality is that patients suffer harm which ought to have been preventable.

Whilst the harm suffered by a patient can often be minor, in the most serious of cases the harm may result in severe disability or even death. Moreover, whilst many may focus on the physical harm caused following a preventable incident, there are often far reaching implications for a person’s mental wellbeing and financial position also.

Notwithstanding the above, it is important to understand that not all incidents of patient harm can be avoided or prevented.

What can be done to prevent or reduce the risk of patients suffering harm which ought to be avoidable?

Guidelines

There is no overarching guidance that healthcare providers must abide by. With that being said, there are various guidelines and recommendations which healthcare professionals are encouraged to have to regard to during their career in order to prevent and/or reduce the risk of patients suffering avoidable harm.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produce evidence-based recommendations for health and care in England. Their guidelines help healthcare providers to prevent ill health, promote and protect good health, improve the quality of care and services, and adapt and provide health and social care services.

The range of guidance available from NICE is vast and during my career as a clinical negligence solicitor, I have often found myself and medical experts referring to these guidelines in order to determine whether or not more could have been done by a healthcare provider to prevent or reduce the risk of harm suffered by our client.

In addition to NICE guidance, healthcare providers may have their own procedures and policies, and these are often created and adapted based on their own experiences and having learned from previous mistakes or adverse events.

Training

It is important that our healthcare professionals have up to date knowledge when practising and treating patients, particularly with the continuing advancements in technology and clinical research.

Doctors and Nurses are required to regularly revalidate their license to practice. The revalidation process requires them to demonstrate they are up to date with clinical practice and procedure and they are required to reflect on how they can develop or improve their practice.

If Doctors and Nurses do not comply with the revalidation process, their license to practice will be at risk. The revalidation process therefore helps and promotes improved quality of care and treatment.

Complaints

Making a complaint when you or a loved one’s care or treatment has gone wrong is very helpful for the development of patient safety as it is an opportunity for the healthcare provider to identify why something might have gone wrong and what can be done to reduce or prevent harm to patients in the future. It is important that you raise your concerns with the relevant person as soon as possible.

During the complaints process, the healthcare provider may identify that improvements could be made, and this often leads to the development of new policies or procedures to ensure the same mistakes are not made again, thus reducing the chance of causing avoidable harm to a patient.

What you can do if you or a loved one have been harmed

There are a number of options available to you if think you or a loved one has suffered avoidable harm. For example, you could:

• use the NHS complaints procedure by complaining directly to whoever is providing the service, or to whoever is responsible for buying or commissioning the services.
• report the problem to another body, for instance this could be the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or local Healthwatch.
• report a healthcare professional to their regulatory body, particularly in cases of professional misconduct.
• provide feedback about certain NHS services using a survey called the Friends and Family Test (you can find more information about this here - Friends and Family Test (FFT) - NHS (www.nhs.uk).

Alternatively, you may wish to seek legal advice regarding a claim for medical negligence. Bridge McFarland LLP have a team of experienced solicitors who can offer advice on a no-obligation basis. If you wish to seek advice, do not delay and contact us as soon as possible.