Safer Care: Can you afford it?
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 As the NHS moves into a period of financial restraint, the temptation to cut corners, eliminate non-core activity and strip cash from services is increasingly strong.


The danger is that this real need for cost efficiencies could deter NHS Trusts from investing in the thing that is top of the agenda for patients, the public and, increasingly, the NHS - improving patient safety.  Here, Kate Jones, Head of Safer Care at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, makes the case for ensuring patient safety improvement becomes embedded in the culture of the NHS at all levels:


"Recent high profile exposes have shocked and worried people.  The real extent of harm experienced by NHS patients every day is now coming into public rather than purely academic focus.

"In early December the temperature rose further with publication of the Dr Foster Good Hospital Guide 2009.  Much has been written on the reliability of the work (notably Nigel Hawkes, The Independent, 1/12/2009) and the debate about the accuracy and value of the guide will rumble on for some time.


However, some fundamentals are clear.  The first is that patient safety standards simply aren't good enough.  Around one in ten patients suffer harm during the course of their care and treatment.

The second is that improvement science in the NHS is patchy lagging some years behind other industries and services.  For trusts, building capacity and capability for safety improvement is pivotal and urgent.


"This is at the heart of the work of the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement's Safer Care team.  Our aim is: ‘to build an NHS where every member of staff has the passion, confidence and skills to eliminate harm to patients.'

"We have developed a range of programmes and tools to help trusts do just that.  These include the Leading Improvement in Patient Safety (LIPS) programme which has already been delivered to 100 teams from 90 acute trusts.  A similar programme is now available for primary care and a third for mental health. 

" LIPS equips participants with the knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to improve patient safety in their organisations.  It was launched in October 2007 and evidence of effectiveness is emerging from trusts.  Crucially, they are beginning to demonstrate significant financial benefits as well as direct patient benefits."


"For example, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust used LIPS techniques to tackle C.difficile.  They calculate this has saved 60 lives, released 180 beds  and yielded recurring cost savings of £540,000. Internationally, evidence from the Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration Project[i] is compelling.  It provides empirical evidence that high quality, safer care produces lower costs, fewer deaths, shorter lengths of stay, few readmissions and fewer complications."

"This chimes with the principles behind NHS implementation of ‘Delivering High Quality Care for all' using the Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) approach.  QIPP is reflected in many of the NHS Institute's programmes and products, including those geared to safety improvement. 

Professor Bernard Crump, Chief Executive of  the NHS Institute, said: 

"There is now no argument.  Safer care is also higher quality, less expensive and more efficient care.

"Preventable harm currently cost the NHS about £1 billion annually.  That is the cost of keeping people in hospital beds - including intensive and critical care beds - longer than necessary and of additional care to ameliorate a harmful event." 

"Investing in quality and safety improves clinical outcomes and patients' experience whilst also producing better value for money and real, recurring savings.  This will be particularly important  during what will be a very tough financial future for the NHS."

More at:


[i] Stephanie Alexander, Sr Vice President, Healthcare Informatics, Premier Inc. "Can high quality healthcare actually cost less?"

Comments (1)
Caroline Woodhams
Marketing & PR Manager
Marshall- Tufflex Ltd

Where new build and refurbs are concerned, we believe that the health service may be unaware of the contribution that can be made from building materials, i.e. paint, tiles, trunking systems, light switches, wall panels, that are impregnated with silver ion technology to provide 24/7 antimicrobial control of the spread of infection via surfaces. Silver has long been used as a natural biocide that is harmless to human life. In fact it's still used and trusted within the NHS but not for internal building materials. As cable management manufacturers investing in materials and products that incorporate silver ion technology, we are disappointed in the general lack of interest from in-house infection control panels who must sign off these products. This is surely one area where high quality healthcare could be provided as part of the agreed design and which would not incur ongoing costs.

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