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Health Secretary stresses the importance of the right NHS leadership

In his speech at the Royal Society of Medicine, Matt Hancock suggests leadership is vital for patient safety.

In a speech delivered to healthcare professionals at the Royal Society of Medicine, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, discusses the unspoken bond of trust between patients and medical professionals.

Matt Hancock argues that people trust the NHS because of the NHS’ ability to save the lives of people we love. Furthermore, because the NHS does all it can to help patients without giving up. However, the Health Secretary added in his speech that when the bonds of trust are broken, it can have devastating consequences.

In order to continue strengthening the bond of trust between patients and medical professionals is to create a compassionate culture. He urges medical professionals to own up and apologise if they make mistakes rather than cover it up to prevent legal action. So much so that some NHS Trusts are creating ‘behaviour charters’ so that patients and their loved ones know exactly what to expect from the medical professionals they come into contact with.

By apologising the patients in the event of a mistake, Matt Hancock stresses that this is not an admission of liability but a chance to show patients that they can do better and are working to rebuild that level of trust. Matt Hancock also added that this is a vital component of continuous improvement that is vital for the sustainability of the NHS.

In NHS Trusts where behaviour charters are in practice, so far, there hasn’t been an increase in clinical negligence claims. Furthermore, some believe that the honesty shown means patients are less likely to resort to legal action. This is simply because the ability to say sorry renews the bond of trust.

Rising costs of clinical negligence

It must be noted that clinical negligence pay-outs have quadrupled in the past ten years. Currently pay-outs cost around £2 billion a year. This figure is unsustainable for the NHS, so part of the NHS Long Term plan is to increase patient safety in a bid to reduce compensation claims.

Some of the methods to improve patient safety, set forward in the NHS Long Term Plan include;

  • Reducing paperwork to give medical staff more time with their patients
  • Create faster resolutions for those let down by their care
  • Provide more money to frontline workers.

Improving NHS Leaders

One of the ways that the Health Secretary believes will increase patient safety is by improving leadership in the NHS. He believes the NHS must reduce leadership turnover and ensure that it continues to attract the best talent. Leading in the NHS is tough, but with more support, the best talent may have the encouragement to take their next step.

In a bid to improve NHS Leadership, the government has released a review by Tom Kark which discusses the recommendations that can help to strengthen high-level NHS leadership. One of Kark’s suggestions is to introduce a central directors’ database where qualification and employment history can be easily accessed. This will ensure that those unfit to work in the NHS do not continually manage to keep moving throughout the system.

You can read Matt Hancock’s speech in full here.

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