A chance to update outdated employment procedures and processes, Says Royles following announcements on patient safety and of a review into NHS whistleblowing

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation comments on today's announcements about the Sign up for Safety campaign and that Sir Robert Francis will head up a review of whistleblowing arrangements in the NHS.

On the review into whistleblowing, Mr Royles said:

“I welcome the opportunity this review brings to look into processes across the NHS for dealing more effectively with whistleblowing. We have had a prolonged period of media coverage on this issue and the important employer voice has often been missing from the debate.

“We are all aware of the recent high profile of whistleblowing, both in the NHS and in other sectors. This review provides an opportunity to move the debate on, hopefully at pace, and to explore the systems and processes we have for encouraging staff to raise concerns and importantly, how they receive feedback. In the NHS concerns raised about poor care often involve allegations about the conduct and capability of other staff that need appropriate and thorough investigation. This adds complexity.

“We therefore also hope it will look at some of the outdated and laborious processes NHS organisations are required to use, such as the doctors’ disciplinary procedure known as Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS. This procedure is now so complex that it prevents early resolution and open investigation of concerns about patient safety by involving too many expensive lawyers, too early, in trying to resolve issues. It puts doctors before patients.

“We also need to explore the processes professional regulators use and how these interact with local practices.

“This will be the first time that those involved in decision-making in whistleblowing cases get a chance to give their views on where things go wrong, and how it can be improved. NHS Employers is looking forward to supporting the review as it explores the complexity of the issues involved and to contributing examples of how and where the NHS does this very well and sharing lessons to be learned.

“It is important that employers across the NHS engage with this review so I have written to all NHS Trusts today to highlight the announcement and encourage their involvement.”

On the Sign up for Safety campaign:

“The new campaign ‘Sign up for Safety’ provides a further opportunity for all staff, whatever job title, role and function to think about how they can do things differently to improve patient safety. This has to be a good thing. The NHS need to constantly change, develop and improve. Engaging our whole workforce in taking forward this work has the potential to drive the open and inclusive culture many organisations are already working towards.

“There are some practical considerations and further detail that employers will want to see around the interface with the NHS Litigation Authority and the ability to reduce premiums through successfully using this campaign. This, along with the central intent of improved safety, is an important outcome for the campaign and one which employers will want to capitalise upon, so having clarity will help employers to work through how it can be delivered.”

On the development of a patient safety website:

'The NHS is increasingly digital, so it is absolutely right that we all strive to improve on patient safety through the use of data and information. This means not only being open and transparent but intelligent in the way we triangulate data to be meaningful, helping patients and citizens make informed judgements and decisions.

“It is welcome news that the patient safety website will be developed further to include information about both staffing levels and staff experience, as both are important factors in providing safe and effective patient care.”



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