Omnicell response to the NHS Patient Safety Strategy – NHS England and NHS Improvement (July 2019) announcement

05th Jul 2019

“This week, NHS England & NHS Improvement announced their eagerly-awaited new Patient Safety Strategy – a ‘golden thread’ to run through healthcare. Broadly speaking, the strategy is designed to encourage staff to speak up and contribute to continuous improvement, by learning and acting when things go wrong. Progress will be reported annually and updated as and when needed.

It includes a series of recommendations built on two core pillars – a patient safety culture supported by a patient safety system.  If implemented successfully, the report believes it could save around 1000 lives and £100m in care costs a year by 2023-24.

The health service’s “dedicated, diverse and skilled workforce” are the key to making improvement and represent “our best opportunity to deliver the vision for patient safety”. The strategy has three key aims:

  • Insight by improving understanding of safety
  • Involvement by equipping those interfacing with the NHS with skills
  • Improvement by designing and supporting programmes and delivering effective and sustainable change.

Long-term, its target is for the NHS to create the first system-wide and consistent patient safety syllabus, training and education framework. This includes drawing on data from multiple sources to improve understanding of patient safety and making the best use of digital technology, prioritising medication adherence in combatting the misallocation of meds to patients in NHS care.

The report highlights the 11,000 lives lost annually due to safety concerns, with older patients the most affected.  Extra treatments required to reverse these incidents are estimated to cost the NHS at least £1 billion per annum.  The strategy also commits the NHS to implementing safety programmes in key areas including medicines safety.

NHS organisations will be asked to identify at least one person to be their designated patient safety specialist by April 2020. “They will need to work closely with others, including medical device safety officers and medication safety officers, and should support the fundamental principle that patient safety is everyone’s responsibility – a specialist is not accountable for an organisation’s safety on their own.”

The report goes on to flag up the importance of having enough staff and the serious impact under-staffing could have on patient safety. A key issue raised at Omnicell’s Health Summit held earlier this year as part of our SAFE campaign, to raise awareness and discuss ways in which we can work together to reduce medication errors and help support our stretched NHS workforce.

Of key concern and welcomed whole-heartedly by Omnicell will be the development of the Medicines Safety Programme to support medicines safety systems across the NHS.  Supported by Patient Safety Collaboratives and hosted through AHSNs. The programme has identified a series of national priorities which will make the largest impact on improving safety including a Medicine Safety Improvement Programme (MSIP) to reduce avoidable medicine related harm globally by 50% in five years, as well as the implementation of electronic prescribing and meds administration systems.

Encouragingly, the NHS will work to ensure innovation supports safety improvement, recognising that new technologies offer the potential for “transformational improvements in safety”. National standards to ensure interoperability will allow full use of electronic records – reducing time and costs as well as enhancing safety. Increasingly sophisticated health-tech functionality enables healthcare professionals to spend more time caring for patients, as well as providing them with timely, complete and correct information.

It’s great to see the report mention the importance of electronic prescribing and medication administration systems in improving patient safety. Omnicell has been campaigning for medication administration systems within hospitals to be implemented alongside electronic prescribing. Electronic prescribing on its own will only improve patient safety to a certain degree. It doesn’t protect against the nurse picking the wrong drug, the wrong dose or administering medication to the wrong patient. To help eradicate medication errors altogether, the NHS needs to adopt a system to close the loop on medication administration. This includes automated dispensing, electronic confirmation of patient identity and medication administration records. This approach to administering medication allows Trusts to track everything back to the patient from the moment the medication is prescribed to when it is administered and ensures complete patient safety.

Omnicell will continue to campaign and raise awareness of the importance of this technology as part of the NHS patient safety programme to ensure it becomes a standard of care across our healthcare landscape, creating a consistent and ‘national’ health service.”