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What the RCP thinks about patient safety

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Patient safety is a key priority for the RCP. We think there must be a shift in the NHS from a place where there is an assumption that care is safe until something goes wrong, to a team working environment that minimises the chances of harm, builds in safety to daily practice, and is open, supportive and facilitates learning when error occurs.

Key recommendations

  • Leadership narrative and behaviours that support  a just, open and learning culture.
  • A focus on risk as well as harm and near misses.
  • Adequate funding and mechanisms for the right level of staffing and equipment to deliver safe care.
  • A national curriculum for patient safety for healthcare staff.
  • Consistent terminology that encompasses learning, openness, risk and harm and moves away from blame.
  • Mechanisms to capture local learning that should be disseminated at a national level, or that expose key themes that need addressing.
  • A legal framework that supports a just, open and learning culture.
  • Providing clarity about the role staff have in patient safety and ensuring it is part of core practice.

Roles and responsibilities

National bodies, including the government, must emphasise the importance of patient safety in all strategies and plans, recognising that healthcare will always have risks and only by each part of the system playing its part will we make that risk acceptable and manageable. It is imperative that the roles and responsibilities of each of the national bodies is clear, that these focus on what needs to be done at the national level, and that it is also clear who is ‘conducting the orchestra’. This will need the wider NHS to work closely together, including royal colleges.

Patient safety is everyone’s business and the RCP will continue to play a leading part. We will:

  • work with national partners in the UK, influencing policy and plans
  • connect and work with medical specialties to share safety practice and leadership, particularly for patients with multiple conditions or who present acutely
  • deliver specific patient safety improvement programmes
  • provide guidance to NHS trusts and boards, and their clinical leaders around patient safety
  • deliver and support the professional development of physicians and their teams at all stages of their careers in patient safety practice.