A major report into improving patient safety in the NHS has backed the health secretary’s call for a ‘named clinician’ – likely to be a GP – to be responsible for coordinating patient care at all times.
The Government-commissioned report – led by patient safety specialist and former adviser to the US President Professor Don Berwick – concluded that a ‘specific, named and recognised clinician’ should be leading on a patient’s care at every phase of treatment.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously said he wants this ‘named clinician’ to be his GP and Professor Berwick said that would be a ‘good idea’ but may vary throughout the country.
The report – published today – said that the NHS does not always put patient safety first and presents a range of recommendations for how to correct the problem.
It recommended that the NHS places the quality of patient care, especially patient safety, ‘above all other aims’ and that health service staff ‘are not to blame’ for lapses in safety as in the vast majority of cases it is the systems and procedures they face that lead to problems.
The report also said that CCGs and NHS England should ensure there always was a named clinician, known to the patient, responsible for coordinating their care regardless of setting.
The report said: ‘NHS England, CCGs and provider organisations should ensure that a specific, named and recognised clinician, known to the patient, is responsible for the coordination of care for every patient at every phased of treatment regardless of setting.’
The advisory group was set up after the Francis Inquiry into failures of care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Professor Berwick said that they had discussed the idea of who should be the coordinator of a patient’s care.
He said: ‘The GP did come up as GPs are very crucial across the NHS and would be a very good answer.
‘We were reluctant to specify a particular person though, or role, because basically it is contextual and in some parts of the country it may not be a physician who is the best coordinator, but there should be somebody. Every patient should know at every single point who has the responsibility for coordinating their care.’
Amid other recommendations, the report said there should be new criminal offences created for NHS staff for ‘wilful’ harm or neglect of patients and recommended a full-scale review of the NHS regulatory system by 2017. But it did not back the suggestion – also in the Francis report – for a ‘duty of candour’ for individual NHS staff.
The Government is due to respond to the report together with its full response to the Francis report in the autumn.
Mr Hunt said the report was a ‘call to action’ for the Government to make the NHS ‘the safest healthcare system in the world’.
BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said he supported Professor Berwick’s call for patient care to be made paramount.
He said: ‘Doctors care deeply about patient care and we now look forward to hearing more from the Government on how Professor Berwick’s review will be implemented.
‘Doctors play a vital leadership role across the NHS in driving forward change and we hope that the Government comes to recognise this and gives doctors a real voice in helping to meet the challenges the NHS faces.’
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said the report had the potential to be a ‘game changer for the NHS’.
She said: ‘We urge Ministers to take heed and act on its recommendations. The Government now needs to take responsibility for fostering a climate within the NHS that supports staff and allows them to continuously improve. By doing this, we will put safe patient care back at the core of everything that the NHS does and restore public trust and confidence.’