Key Take Aways from Professor Don Berwick’s Assessment of Patient Safety in England

One year ago, Professor Don Berwick produced a review of patient safety in England called A Promise to Learn A Commitment to Act. The purpose of the review was to analyze the current level of patient safety and to provide guidelines that would help reduce the level of accidents in patient care throughout the United Kingdom. While zero harm will never be a reality, there are plenty of steps that can be taken to reduce healthcare accidents.

A Focus on Learning

One of the major things that Professor Berwick repeatedly referred to in his review was that simply coming up with a new array of healthcare standards was not going to solve the problem. Anybody can make rules, and a body with the power of the government can effectively punish those who violate those rules. However, just enforcing those rules doesn’t stop the systematic problems that put patient safety at risk. Berwick stated that the rules and regulations surrounding safety have a noble goal but the real way to make sure that patients are properly protected is to focus on constant learning. By addressing the knowledge of the professionals, real change can be effected.

A Survey of Providers

To determine what healthcare providers took away from Professor Berwick’s review, the Health Foundation recently took a survey to determine how the review had changed their safety practices. A total of 99 providers responded, with 64% of them stating that the review had a high or very high impact on their safety agenda. Moreover, 93% of the respondents indicated that they believe that the United Kingdom is making good progress toward improving safety across the board. There are now more compliance inspections, daily safety teleconferences, and greater transparency in many healthcare organizations across the country.

Future Challenges

Most of the respondents felt that the majority of areas that Professor Berwick outlined in his review are being addressed, but there is still some work to do. Monitoring the quality and level of safe care seems to be the easiest to achieve, with 69% of respondents believing they had made significant or very significant progress. Staff management and training, however, seems to be the biggest stumbling block in the new, safer United Kingdom. Only 35% of survey respondents felt that there had been significant progress toward stronger training regimens. Funding problems are a big issue when it comes to this situation, as is the amount of time needed to train what is often a very limited staff.

As a whole, Professor Berwick’s review of patient safety seems to be a potential industry changer. Progress has been made almost across the board when it comes to embracing a newer and more transparent safety model. However, there is still work to be done in the training and personnel area. More funding for healthcare would certainly help, as will new training techniques, improved personnel management, and other workplace innovations that help to boost safety.

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