New agency will help NHS learn from its mistakes

HR managers in the NHS have
welcomed the creation of a new agency that will boost patient safety by
introducing a national system for reporting failures and mistakes in the health
service.

The National Patient
Safety Agency will run a mandatory reporting system for logging all mistakes to
ensure that lessons are learnt when things go wrong.

It will collect and
analyse information on adverse events in the NHS, and where problems are
identified it will draw up improved procedures, specify national goals and
establish mechanisms to track progress.

John Adsett, secretary
of the Association of Human Resource Healthcare Managers, said the creation of
the NPSA is a positive step. He said, "I think the problem is a cultural
one. At the moment the NHS is very much a blame organisation and that is not
helped by comments from ministers and press witch-hunts.

"To turn into a
learning organisation we have to learn from our mistakes and undergo a huge
culture change. It is a step that needs to be taken."

The NPSA aims to
reduce to zero the number of patients dying or being paralysed by
maladministered spinal injections by the end of 2001, and reduce by 25 per cent
the number of instances of harm in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology
which result in litigation by 2005.

It also wants to cut
by 40 per cent the number of serious errors in the use of prescribed drugs by
2005 and significantly reduce the number of suicides by mental health patients
on wards by 2002.

Chief medical officer
Liam Donaldson said, "It is estimated that 850,000 incidents and errors
occur in the NHS each year – this is unacceptable.

"The agency’s
system of identifying, recording and analysing and reporting adverse events
will be at the heart of the shift to a more blame-free, open NHS where lessons
are shared and learnt."

BMA horrified at
suspension rate

The number of doctors
suspended nationwide has grown to 250, according to estimates by the British
Medical Association.

Dr Peter Hawker,
chairman of the BMA’s central consultants and specialists committee, said he
was horrified by the figures.

The increase was
revealed as the Government launched the National Clinical Assessment Authority,
which it claims will give doctors a "fairer and faster" way of
resolving complaints against them.

Health minister John
Denham said the NCAA will provide a new way for doctors to be dealt with
"without pointing the finger".

Reasons for the
increase in suspensions include trusts being trigger-happy following recent
scandals, claims the BMA.

By Ben Willmott

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