18 Mar 2013

Top international experts form taskforce to advise NHS on keeping patients safe from harm

Professor Jean Hartley, Professor of Public Leadership at The Open University Business School is one of the world-class panel of experts invited to join the Berwick Advisory Group which will advise the Prime Minister and the NHS on how to keep patients safe from harm.

Following the Francis Report on the crisis at Mid-Staffs Hospital, world experts in the cultures and processes of keeping people safe have been asked to advise the NHS in England on how to prevent patients being harmed while receiving healthcare.

The National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England will be chaired by Professor Donald Berwick, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, an organisation that Prof Berwick co-founded and led as President and CEO for 18 years.

Members of the international group have been invited for their areas of expertise and interest covering all aspects of the culture and processes of minimising patient harm, healthcare management and nursing to sociology, psychology and the mobilisation of change.

Professor Hartley’s contribution will be on public leadership and on creating and learning from organizational change and innovation following her extensive research in these fields.

Speaking about her appointment to the Berwick Advisory Group Professor Hartley said, “I feel very privileged to be working with this panel of world-class experts in improvement of public services. This is a real opportunity to improve patient safety. We have seen several reports about what went wrong at Mid-Staffs NHS but the Berwick Advisory group goes well beyond this. Our collective aim is to advise on how problems can be prevented in the future, to enhance quality of care for patients and families, and to create a culture for staff that is focused on learning and continuous improvement.”

Prof Berwick, who will be leading the Group, was asked by the Prime Minster David Cameron to set up the advisory group following last month’s final report into the devastating breakdown of care at Mid-Staffordshire Hospitals. The team of 12 includes recognised experts from the US and the UK.

Prior to his service in 2010 and 2011 as President Obama’s appointee to head the US Medicare and Medicaid programs, Prof Berwick was a paediatric consultant, Professor of Health Care Policy and the Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is world-renowned for his expertise in patient safety, and advised NHS Scotland in the development of its first national patient safety approach.

Prof Berwick said: “Assuring patient safety and high quality care is never automatic. It requires the constant attention of leaders and continual support to the workforce. I have read, and been deeply affected by, the harrowing personal stories of individuals and families who were so badly injured when this commitment flagged at Mid-Staffordshire Hospitals.

“Our group will do whatever it can to recommend how the NHS in England take serious and profound action, learning from this tragedy to make patient care and treatment as safe as it can possibly be, and ever safer. Indeed, there is no reason why English health care cannot aspire to be and become the safest health care in the world.

“Making patient care as safe as it can possibly be, at all times, is a major challenge in any health care system. It involves leadership, training, staff culture, organisational structures, systems and processes, data capture and analysis, regulation, deep patient and family involvement, and much more.

“It is important to remember that England is in many ways an international exemplar in patient safety, but Mid-Staffordshire shows us that there is still a great deal of work to do. The national group includes English experts as well as some from the US, and with such formidable knowledge and talent on board, I am confident we will be able to set out clear, practical advice and leave a legacy of safer care in the NHS.”

The group will build on the work of Robert Francis QC, advising the NHS on how to deliver real change, based on the best available scientific evidence from across the NHS and from other industries and health services from around the world.

They will report their findings and advice to the NHS Commissioning Board and the Department of Health at the end of July.

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