The national state of patient safety shows some areas of progress – but lacks data and focus


As a company committed to improving patient safety and communication, CAREFUL recognises the importance of understanding the current state of patient safety. 

A recent report, ‘National State of Patient Safety 2022: What we know about avoidable harm in England’, produced by the NIHR Patient Safety and Translational Research Centre and the Centre for Health Policy at the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) sheds light on this crucial topic. 

Funded by Patient Safety Watch, the report highlights both progress and areas that need improvement in patient safety, based on an analysis of publicly available data from the past 15 years.

Key findings:

  1. Progress in patient safety: Over the past 15 years, significant achievements have been made, such as reductions in specific causes of harm and progress in fostering a more positive safety culture.
  2. Workforce pressures: Warning signs in the data point to pressures faced by the healthcare workforce, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  3. Access to care: Increasing waiting lists for planned care, falls in the diagnosis of some long-term conditions, and significant pressures on emergency services highlight the urgent need for timely and equitable access to care as a patient safety issue.
  4. Variations in care: Mortality data analysis reveals regional variation, while national progress in maternity services safety masks local failures in care and poorer outcomes for women from Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnicity backgrounds.
  5. Data limitations: A broader range of data that better reflects the reality of people’s journey through the health system is needed for a more comprehensive understanding of patient safety.

The report acknowledges that despite major efforts to prioritise patient safety, workforce pressures and the impact of Covid-19 have created challenges. Access to care has become an urgent patient safety issue, with record numbers of people waiting for planned care and increased pressures on emergency services.

Variations in care also present challenges, particularly in maternity services. While national-level data shows improvements in the safety of maternity care, the rate of improvement lags behind government targets, and women from Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnicity backgrounds experience poorer outcomes.

Data limitations are another significant concern highlighted in the report. Current patient safety data, drawn from publicly available sources, can only provide information about past care, not real-time or future care. To address this, the report recommends improvements in the breadth of patient safety data collected and the accuracy of key patient safety measures.

CAREFUL recognises the importance of research, robust evidence generation, and monitoring markers for future poor outcomes in making gains in patient safety. By understanding and addressing these challenges, we can work together to create a safer healthcare system for all patients around the world.

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