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Jeremy Hunt: message to NHS staff on strengthening patient safety

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Secretary of State for Health talks about a number of new initiatives launched this week to strengthen patient safety in the NHS.

Last week the respected Commonwealth Fund ranked the UK as the best healthcare system in the world. We can all be particularly proud of the fact we moved from seventh place to first for patient-centred care and also came top for safety. This is down to the hard work and dedication of everyone who works in the NHS.

But we can do even better. We know from other areas where there is a risk of harm – like the airline industry – that safety depends on staff being confident that they can point out problems. Still today too many staff in the NHS feel they can’t speak up or that nothing will happen if they do. So this week I’ve launched a new package of measures to help change things for the better.

First, Sir Robert Francis is leading an independent review into how we can create an open and honest reporting culture in the NHS. As part of that, he will look at what further action is necessary to protect individuals working in the NHS who speak out against unsafe practice or unfair treatment. Sir Robert wants to hear from frontline staff, trade unions and NHS employers amongst others. Information about how you can do this will be made available shortly on the Whistleblowing in the NHS: independent review webpage. I would like to encourage you to get involved with the review: I know that Sir Robert is keen to hear from as many people as possible, and to ensure that a wide range of views and experiences help to shape his conclusions. The review would also like to hear from you if you have evidence of good practice regarding concerns raised and action taken to make improvements.

This week also saw the launch of the new “Sign up to Safety” campaign, under the leadership of Sir David Dalton, Chief Executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. Twelve trusts have already signed up and many more will follow. Find out more about the campaign and how you and your organisation can get involved.

Finally, in a world-leading drive on transparency, the NHS has published a swathe of safety data - including staffing levels and ‘open and honest reporting’ - for adult and paediatric hospital wards, including mental health and community hospitals. The data has been published on a new safety section on NHS Choices and will give you and your patients the chance to see how well you are doing on some key safety measures.

Focusing on safety is about focusing on things that matter to staff. So I am confident that in harnessing the talent and enthusiasm across the NHS, we will help make enduring changes to improve safety, halve avoidable harm and halve the costs of harm. Most importantly it will make a positive difference to the people we care for - and potentially save 6,000 lives over the next three years. None of this can happen without you - so I do hope that you will give your support to the important changes announced this week.

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