The health secretary Matt Hancock has been discussing the future of technology in health to an audience at the Patient Safety Learning Conference. Mr Hancock told the audience that his current priorities include “workforce, technology and prevention”, describing patient safety as the “golden thread that runs through all of them”. The health secretary called for an end to “blame culture” and said this was key to building a safer system, also discussing the role data and technology had to play in improving patient safety.
The former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who replaced Jeremy Hunt earlier this year, argued that the systems and processes that support staff must be improved to minimise human error. He praised the Learning from Deaths programme, saying it has helped NHS trusts to gain a better understanding of where care needs to improve and is enabling trusts to put proper arrangements in place for learning from patient deaths. These improvements should involve enhancing the way that families are supported and engaged with.
Medical examiners are set to implement substantial changes to the way the NHS learns from deaths. The examiners will confirm the causes of all deaths from next April, other than deaths that need to be investigated by coroners. Bereaved families are to be given further opportunities to express their concerns about how illnesses and deaths are handled so fewer families need to face losing a relative unnecessarily, according to Mr Hancock.
Mr Hancock also spoke of the “world-first” Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, which utilises the skills and experience of independent professional investigators, who aim to identify the root cause of serious patient safety incidents. He also announced plans to launch a new independent body to carry out investigations following the publication of the Health Services Safety Investigation Bill in draft.
Another subject discussed was data and technology. Mr Hancock said care quality has been compromised due to IT systems not communicating with each other effectively. He said transparent open data was required so anomalies could be spotted quickly and said electronic prescribing and medicines administration in secondary care were scheduled to be rolled out in full in the near future, reducing medication-related errors and improving interoperability.
The new Patient Safety Incident Management System has been designed to enhance the way insights from NHS incident reporting were captured and spread. Mr Hancock also announced plans to improve the way sepsis was diagnosed via the ‘suspicion of sepsis dashboard, which will measure the number of patients with serious infections and therefore enable doctors to identify the most suitable treatments quickly. Mr Hancock said there was ‘no room for complacency’ with regards to patient safety, saying he wanted all patients and their families to have total confidence in the care they were given. He said he wanted to establish the NHS as the “safest health system in the world” and believed this was fully achievable.