“Zero harm culture” focus of new NHS report by ex-Obama Health Advisor

4 August 2013

“Zero harm culture” focus of new NHS report by ex-Obama Health Advisor

Professor Don Berwick, one of the world's leading experts on patient safety will be publishing a report into the specific level of patient safety and healthcare in the NHS within the next few days, focusing on a road map on how to create a culture of ‘zero harm’ in the NHS. Professor Berwick was originally asked by ministers to look at the systems in place in the NHS after the Stafford Hospital scandal, where the findings that corporate interests was regularly being placed before patient safety was made abundantly clear in investigations such as the Francis Report.

Berwick, who originally championed the NHS as "one of the astounding human endeavours of modern times" in a speech marking its 60th anniversary in 2008, is focusing his report on not only encouraging a zero harm culture but in also placing a critical eye over deep systemic NHS issues such as regulation of healthcare assistants and insufficient staffing.

The ‘zero harm’ culture reflects the attempt to create systems-in fields such as aviation for instance-which aim to reduce the possibility of mistakes arising in the first instance. The idea of trying to create a zero-harm culture has come out of a global recognition that some patients needlessly suffer or die in hospital because of errors.

President Obama appointed Professor Berwick Administrator of Medicare and Medicaid-before he stood down after a year before facing a nomination hearing-but his expertise in matters of healthcare stand improvement was fostered through extensive work with healthcare systems globally through The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), which he co-founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Speaking to the BBC in March 2013 after his appointment Prof Berwick said the "best testimonial to the suffering" of those whose relatives received poor care would be a "healed and better" NHS.

He added "To think so much injury was done that really should not have been done. It's very sad and that's what I feel."

Although there have been concerns about how proactive change would be subsequent to the publishing of the findings, Scotland has based its patient safety programme on collaboration with the Boston-based Institute for Health Improvement  co-founded by Don Berwick and there this had contributed to a fall of 12.4% in hospital death rates since 2008. Prof Leitch will be on the expert panel working with Don Berwick to advise the NHS in England.

The Scottish approach has attracted attention from other countries such as Denmark, which has set up a similar patient safety programme.

Nonetheless concerns remain about the usefulness of reports, continual analysis, and the poring over minutiae at the expense of action. Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, opined: "Robert Francis did a very detailed and expensive report with clear recommendations. They need to stop talking about it and just do it.

"It almost looks as though they want to be seen to be doing something rather than just doing it."

The long awaited report will be published within the next few days and Mistreatment.com will provide a closer analysis into its contents shortly.

If you have experienced any form of medical mistreatment at any of the above mentioned trusts, or want to better understand exactly what your patient rights are, Mistreatment.com are pleased to offer advice and support to you. Our specialists have wide experience of providing advice and support across a number of areas relating to potential medical mistreatment, such as misdiagnosis and delay and surgery errors, for example.