Patient safety goes international

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 9 October 2007




(2007), "Patient safety goes international", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 20 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Patient safety goes international

Keywords: Leadership capacity, Patient safety, Accountability

Don Berwick said the UK had hit milestones in improving healthcare Don Berwick, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has praised The Health Foundation for its work in improving patient safety in the UK, as part of the global patient safety movement that he said is now entering a “maturation phase”. Speaking at the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Health Care in Barcelona yesterday, Don likened patient safety to major social movements such as feminism and environmentalism.

“We clearly have hit some milestones in the development of our shared efforts to improve healthcare”, Don said. “I have tracked these most closely in the UK, where there has been a tremendous maturation of the capacity to lead and cause improvements in a large system. The Safer Patients Initiative, for example, was an effort to go back to square one and redesign patient safety.”

Between 2004 and 2006, the IHI ran one of the world’s most successful initiatives to date to reduce patient deaths from medical errors – the 100,000 Lives campaign. Over 3,000 hospitals from across the USA signed up to implement six key safety measures identified by the IHI and saw their death rates fall by up to 43 per cent as a result. Don revealed that one of the key factors in the campaign’s success was copying the tactics of political campaigns, including a bus tour and campaign rallies.

Martin Fletcher, Patient Safety Lead at the World Health Organisation (WHO), also highlighted The Health Foundation’s role in supporting “pioneer hospitals” who are spreading best practice internationally.

“One area we’re very interested in developing is pioneer hospitals”, Martin said. “There are some organisations around the world who have made very good gains in patient safety. We want to better understand the active ingredients of what they’ve done and make that learning available to others. We’re in the early stages of this work in partnership with The Health Foundation in the UK.”

He gave the example of a hospital in Tokyo, visited by Chief Medical Officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson, where staff members’ safety proficiency level and accountability are clearly shown on their name badges.

Teams from South Africa and Malawi led a discussion on how to improve healthcare in developing countries, where resources are scarce and the working culture is very different. The Malawi team, which is supported by The Health Foundation, is working to halve the death rates of women and babies during childbirth. They found that using local teams to devise solutions when systems broke down was key.

“We want to ensure that when a patient arrives at the hospital, she receives friendly care, is taken care of when she goes into labour and delivers a live and healthy baby with no complications”, said Rose Kumwenda-Ng’oma, Programme Manager for The Health Foundation Consortium. “In the event that a complication arises, we want to ensure that it is identified promptly and dealt with appropriately.”

Some of the innovations developed by the local teams include giving hospital admission forms to traditional birth attendants, allowing volunteer companions or family members to accompany patients and call when they need help, and installing an emergency box in each ward which contains all the equipment needed in the event of complications.

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