'Protections' to promote NHS safety

The Department of Health has unveiled a new tool which enables the public to see how well their hospital is performing on key safety measures

The Department of Health has unveiled a new tool which enables the public to see how well their hospital is performing on key safety measures

First published in National News © by

Whistleblowers could be given new protections as part of a drive to promote safety and openness in the NHS aimed at saving up to 6,000 lives over the next three years, the Government has announced.

Sir Robert Francis QC, who headed the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal, will chair a new independent review into whistleblowing in the NHS and how frontline staff can be supported when they act in the public interest by raising their concerns.

The new inquiry was announced as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt launched a campaign to reduce medical errors including a new website that will let patients and relatives see how a hospital is rated for safety.

All hospital trusts in England have been rated good, okay, or poor for their openness and honesty in reporting and responding to breaches of safety.

Twenty per cent of acute NHS trusts in England have been flagged by health officials for under-reporting patient safety incidents, including events that cause severe harm or even death, 17.7% were deemed to be good, and 61.7% were rated as OK.

Other data released has included information on infection control, cleanliness, and whether or not patients are assessed for blood clots.

Mr Hunt also launched the Sign Up To Safety campaign for NHS trusts aimed at halving avoidable harm and save up to 6,000 lives over the next three years.

Twelve trusts are already developing plans as part of the campaign.

Mr Hunt said tackling unsafe care and avoidable harm such as medication errors, blood clots and bed sores would not only help patients but would save the NHS money.

A 2007 study estimated the cost of "adverse events" due to medication errors at £774 million per year and the NHS currently spends around £1.3 billion per year on litigation claims.

Mr Hunt said: " Globally, the levels of avoidable harm in health care are shocking. The NHS is already leading the way on safety, more than 300 people suffered as a result of some of the most serious types of preventable harm last year. Today's campaign will go further and aims to save thousands of lives.

"We have come a long way since Mid Staffordshire, however there are too many cases where NHS staff who have raised concerns about safety have been ignored. Today we have introduced measures to help tackle this head on."

Sir Robert said the Mid Staffs public inquiry had revealed the "appalling" consequences for patients of a "closed ranks" culture within the NHS.

" We need a culture where 'I need to report this' is the thought, foremost in the mind of any NHS worker that has concerns - a culture where concerns are listened to and acted upon," he said.

"The Mid Staffordshire public inquiry showed the appalling consequences for patients when there is a "closed ranks" culture. This review will help us to learn more about what we need to do to support staff to raise concerns, and support the NHS to listen to them."

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