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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
Medics call for 'safer' hospitals
Image of a person washing their hands
Good hand hygiene is important
Nearly all doctors, nurses and NHS bosses think hospitals need to be made safer for patients, a poll suggests.

More than nine out of 10 of the 513 senior staff surveyed said improvements in patient safety were needed.

Half ranked this as their hospital's second or third priority, when questioned by the Health Foundation and YouGov.

Areas highlighted for improvement included infection control and patient communication.


Just under three-quarters of those surveyed said placing more emphasis on hygiene, including hand washing, would help make hospitals safer places for patients.

Two-thirds highlighted better communication between staff as important and eight out of 10 said a "no blame" culture for reporting errors would help.

Despite their concern, the respondents appeared to underestimate the size of problem.

Almost three-quarters also were unaware of how many deaths were associated with breakdowns in patient safety.

Nationwide, patient safety incidents, such as medication errors and hospital infections, are linked with 110 deaths a day - slightly more than 40,000 deaths a year.

Patients need to be encouraged to speak out - for example to remind their doctors to wash their hands.
Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the Health Foundation

This is more than those caused by both road traffic accidents and accidents in the workplace combined, according to estimates.

Most clinicians said patients and their families should be told when there has been a breakdown of patient safety as part of their care, if they have suffered harm.

Most non-clinical managers said patients should be told, even if they had suffered no harm.

Involve patients

One in four thought most or all patients would know enough about their condition to play a major role in improving the safety of their care.

Just under a third said their patients were not actively involved in activities to improve patient safety and a fifth did not know whether patients were actively involved or not.

Stephen Thornton, chief executive of The Health Foundation, said: "Given that three years ago the Bristol Inquiry recommended that patients must be at the centre of the NHS and should be treated as partners by health professionals, more needs to be done to include patients in making hospitals safer.

"Doctors need to communicate more openly with patients.

"And patients need to be encouraged to speak out - for example to remind their doctors to wash their hands and to say if they notice any difference in their treatment."

Sue Osborn, joint chief executive of the National Patient Safety Trust which was set up to help the NHS learn from and prevent errors, said: "Patient involvement is at the heart of the NPSA's work and there is no doubt that if we can help improve communication between staff and patients, then patient care will be safer."

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said: "We have put patient safety right at the centre of our drive to deliver better care for NHS patients and are helping to lead an international initiative championing patient safety."

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