Andrew Lansley- an open, transparent NHS is a safer National Health Service
The health secretary Andrew Lansley explains why Dr Foster’s Hospital Guide should be welcomed by patients and NHS professionals.
In the first speech I delivered as health secretary, I made one thing perfectly clear: we need a cultural shift in the NHS: from a culture responsive mainly to orders from the top down to one responsive to patients, in which patient safety is put first.
A key driver in this is the provision of meaningful and easily accessible information. An open, transparent NHS is a safer NHS. Dr Foster’s Hospital Guide, published today, is a welcome source of information about standards in healthcare services, which patients and purchasers of healthcare services can use.
In particular, the guide highlights high levels of “adverse medical events”, the widespread under-reporting of incidents and too many hospitals with death rates higher than one would expect.
Safe care saves lives and saves money. Adverse events like high levels of infection, blood clots or falls in hospital, emergency readmissions and pressure sores cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. There is a serious human cost too, with patients ending up injured, or even dead. Most are avoidable with the right care.
So what are we doing about it? For a start, the NHS consists of many highly skilled, dedicated and motivated people. We will free them from central control while holding them to account for the quality of care they deliver. Soon, GPs will be responsible for designing and paying for local health services, working with their colleagues across the NHS to get the best results for their patients.
We will shine a bright light on NHS performance. A new culture of openness and transparency will transform patient care. Everyone – patients, the public and other clinicians – will be able to see just how well a particular organisation, team or even an individual is performing. This will create a huge incentive for ever higher levels of quality and patient safety.
We have already published hospital infection data for MRSA and C-difficile online, updated weekly for all to see. And we are planning to publish regular data on other potentially fatal infections too. We are also changing the way we collect and publish mortality statistics so that they act as an early trigger for unsafe care.
In the coming years, we will add significantly to this, making it much easier for patients and their doctors to choose the best and safest care. Our plan to deliver a payment system linked to the result of treatments will encourage hospitals to improve the quality of care they deliver for patients – like our 30-day readmission tariff – and should help drive up even higher the standards of care in hospitals.
And we will focus on outcomes: reducing avoidable deaths, continually cutting infections, treating patients safely and successfully and then getting them back home. This already happens in heart care where publishing data on outcomes has been critical to taking our results well above those elsewhere in Europe. We want to see this happen across the board.
The NHS deals with nearly a million patients a day. No one can guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong. But we can eliminate the culture of blame and secrecy that can compound the initial mistake and stops lessons being learned.
I never want anyone working in the NHS to be afraid of coming forward when they believe patient safety is compromised. We will strengthen the whistleblowing rights of staff and place a duty on their employer to support and investigate their concerns.
I want the NHS to give all patients care that compares with the very best in the world. To help it achieve this, a new range of quality standards – designed by the professions themselves and monitored by the independent Care Quality Commission – will set out what safe, high-quality care looks like. But the standards will not dictate how this is to be achieved. This government will never undermine the clinical judgment of health professionals.
Where the NHS embraces a culture of transparency, of learning from its mistakes and constantly striving for higher performance, it is a world-beater.
There are real centres of excellence – the challenge now is to achieve that excellence across the whole of the health service.
The interview was carried at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/andrew-lansley-doctor-foster-comment