Jeremy Hunt plans disclosure drive to reduce medical errors
A fifth of NHS trusts in England have been rated as having poor disclosure performance in a new assessment.
One in five hospitals are not taking patient safety seriously enough despite the Mid Staffs scandal, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will claim on Tuesday as he launches a drive to reduce medical errors.
In a new assessment exercise, all hospital trusts in England have been rated good, OK or poor for their openness and honesty in reporting and responding to breaches of patient safety.
While 17.7% were classed as good and 61.7% as OK, the other 20.6% received a red rating, denoting poor performance. Those ranked poor are reporting too few patient incidents or not reporting often enough, or staff feel the trust’s response to mistakes has not been good enough.
Hunt, speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, said the plan for greater transparency was a very big moment since it would reveal which hospitals have a problem with its reporting culture. “The NHS is there for patients and if hospitals had a problem with its reporting culture patients have a right to know that.”
He denied that he was imposing a culture of blame, or naming and shaming in the NHS, but instead a learning culture. “The safety record could be better and we must never be complacent – once a week we operate on the wrong part of somebody’s body; that is not acceptable. This is a very big moment we have identified that the key to this is having an open an honest reporting culture. We have gone through all our hospitals and look at some key matrix to see which has and which does not.
“We certainly do not want to humiliate anyone. If you have a group of hospitals that do not have the right reporting culture how are you going to change that unless you identity that?”
The Department of Health has published the figures before the launch on Tuesday of a website – the first of its kind in the world – that will let patients and relatives see how well a hospital is doing on patient safety.
Hunt, who has already pledged to save 6,000 lives over the next three years by reducing avoidable harm to patients, will also announce the “sign up to safety” campaign for hospitals. Although the health secretary will praise the NHS for its safety record, he will demand greater efforts to reduce harm.
Today will also see the publication of the first data on nurse staffing levels in every ward of every hospital, a change agreed after the Mid Staffs scandal amid concern about widespread understaffing.
Jamie Reed, the shadow health minister, said it was “staggering hypocrisy” for ministers to talk about openness and transparency in the NHS when they continue to refuse to publish the official risk register covering the restructuring of the service in England last year.
“Meanwhile, more than half of nurses now say their ward is dangerously understaffed, and more believe patient safety has got worse over the last year than better. And the government has slashed nurse training places, storing up a huge staffing crisis for the future,” he said.
Hunt was also pressed on the number of times he had visited mental-health hospitals as health secretary in the past three years, after the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Prof Sue Bailey, said mental health services were a car crash and the system was in crisis. She said Hunt was not taking the issue seriously and it would be good for him to spend more time in mental hospitals to see the scale of the problem.
Hunt said he had worked on the frontline of mental health settings but Labour said in a parliamentary written answer that he had only visited a mental-health hospital after 18 months as health Secretary, and in total only chalked up three mental-hospital visits.
Hunt responded: “To criticise a health secretary that goes out on the frontline, rolls up his sleeves, takes part in shifts with doctors and nurses – something that has not happened previously on a regular basis – is an extraordinary thing to be doing on the Today programme.”
- The Guardian,