Dr Don Berwick is a physician, a professor, a leader in patient safety, an inspiration. He is also a good friend of Wales, having been involved as long ago as 2006, helping to create ‘Designed to Deliver’, the Quality Improvement Plan (QUIP), which led to the 1000 Lives Campaign among other things. I have heard him speak several times in Wales on the need to put patient safety at the forefront of our thinking, to adopt quality improvement as the only way forward, and to believe that we can build a better health service for all.
We have seen the problems caused by a wrong culture within the banking industry (LIBOR fixing) and within the media industry (phone hacking). We have also recently had a powerful reminder that the wrong culture in healthcare can lead to a drastic reduction in patient safety and quality of care.
The Francis report has shone a spotlight on the attitudes and actions of staff in one small part of the NHS. The report makes for uncomfortable reading for all of us. The accounts of appalling lack of care are so shocking and difficult to equate with our core principles as health professionals, that it is easy to feel a sense of distance from them.
I loved my job as a theatre scrub nurse. I had a great relationship with a particular orthopaedic consultant and his team. If you asked me if we were a good team I would reply “definitely”.
So why couldn’t I tell him that he was going to make an incision in the wrong place? I whispered to the registrar to do it but he also couldn’t.
My colleague Michelle Graham recently blogged about how patient input has been crucial in the Life after Stroke programme. There is growing recognition that patients should be the most important people in our healthcare systems – and as organisations we should be trying to listen to patients as much as possible.
But how easy will it be to become a listening organisation?