Future-proofing health services to improve patient safety


Publish date: Oct 14, 2022

In recognition of World Patient Safety Day this year, a few weeks ago, my colleague Dipak wrote about the current healthcare landscape and state of medication errors. BD's work with patient advocates like Lisa Richards-Everton was also highlighted, showing the devastating impact of medication errors. Her tragic story and others like hers reinforce the need for policy change to ensure other families do not suffer from avoidable medication errors the way hers has. Patient safety has always been at the core of the healthcare matrix, but it needs to be placed at the forefront of the national health agenda once more. While great strides have been made, more is needed to make a profound impact and tackle healthcare’s fundamental challenges and future proof our health services. The health service has struggled to digitalise at pace to address these issues, and the patient backlog and staff burnout caused by the pandemic has only added complexities. The scope of the problem is so vast that it requires the collective strength and expertise of key decision makers and stakeholders to overcome. However, through the ongoing collaborative working and addressing three specific areas: digitisation, automation, and worker training, we can ensure the NHS is fit to provide leading services which optimise patient outcomes without jeopardising patient safety.

Joining forces to help reduce NHS pressures

In recent years, promising steps have been made around patient safety, with the NHS Commissioning Board learning from rapid innovations delivered during the pandemic. These include telehealth and digital technology initiatives that benefit the most vulnerable in society. In early 2022, the NHS announced its Elective Recovery Plan, which set out special measures to treat those who have been waiting almost two years for treatment (NHS England, 2022).

The plan for digital health and social care, published on 29th June 2022, outlines the acceleration of the use of digital technology across the NHS to improve efficiency and free up frontline workers’ time, helping to bust the COVID-19 backlogs  (Gov UK, 2022). £2 billion has been earmarked from the spending review to help digitise the NHS and social care sector (Gov UK, 2022). Part of this is rolling out electronic patient records in the NHS to drive efficiency which, in turn, will release billions of pounds back to the NHS. The previous Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid claimed, “We are embarking on a radical programme of modernisation that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048 – not 1948, when it was first established.” An example of this is The Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which has been working on the roll-out of its new electronic patient records. This isn’t just a new IT system – it’s a major transformation project, which requires significant clinical input to ensure user needs are met.

More than two decades ago, BD helped set up the Safer Healthcare Biosafety Network, an independent forum comprised of clinicians, patient organisations, unions, government, and industry aiming to improve worker and patient safety (SHBN, 2022). It also drives awareness to promote safer practice with adoption of new technology. This is just one example of where collaboration can help enhance the patient pathway, optimise service efficiency and really improve people’s lives.

Delivering connected care through automation and partnership

In a rapidly evolving world where healthcare and technology are converging, delivering sustainable healthcare solutions are crucial to supporting patients and caregivers. With automation and robotic process technologies at our fingertips, the inefficient and manual systems need to be replaced.

BD offers solutions that connect medication management systems and streamline workflows, creating efficiencies and help improve medication safety. By automating traditionally manual processes, it frees up clinician time and creates safer and more effective practices.

We must also remember that one of the greatest risks to healthcare is workforce challenges. Automation supports medication safety through optimising nurse time and ensuring that the digital system enables the care giver to be as efficient as possible. It also enables increased time to deliver care. With the NHS facing its greatest workforce crisis, Trusts are turning to automation technologies and investing in digitalisation programmes to plug the gap (, 2022). BD works with significant procurement organisations to ensure its advanced solutions are implemented into healthcare systems, with the objective to deliver medication to patients without harm.

Creating a safe space for health workers

Despite care being delivered by highly trained medical professionals, there are occasions where mistakes can be made. A pilot project around cultural change in the NHS showed that nine in 10 doctors fear making medical errors daily due to lack of resources or workforce capacity. The study also found half of doctors lack confident to speak out about patient safety concerns, fearing they’ll be blamed for systemic failings (The British Medical Association, 2022). These circumstances are ripe for potentially compromising the safety of staff as well as patients if not properly addressed and health workers better supported.

BD is proud of the training and education it provides, playing an integral role as a support network to care providers and the health service. In addition to this industry support, stronger action and investment by government and health policy is required. This can address recruitment issues in the NHS and establish a sustainable workforce, while also creating a safe space so that unsafe practices are revealed, recognised, and corrected by those on the front line of healthcare. Moreover, it can help alleviate the pressure on staff, greater support and robust systems need to be put in place to optimise their care, to benefit patients.

It is crucial that government, industry, and senior decision makers continue the pandemic-induced collaboration. COVID-19 was a stark reminder that we’re never far away from a crippling health crisis, with antimicrobial resistance being labelled a ‘silent pandemic’. In order to advance the world of health, patient safety needs to be prioritised in a renewed health agenda as part of local and global initiatives. Safety – be it worker or patient – is a founding principle of healthcare systems. Battling the backlog, boosting workforce resilience, and improving medication management systems will collectively bolster healthcare foundations and bring us closer to safer delivery of care.

About the Author: Greg Quinn

Greg joined BD as Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the UK and Ireland in 2016. He regularly drives policy development across both nations and through partnerships and advocacy in Brussels. He is a Registered Nurse (RNLD), and as well as enjoying a clinical career, he has experienced significant roles across NHS general hospital and community services management, and UK-wide External Audit. Greg is an experienced political policy and advocacy influencer in the Pharma and MedTech health spaces. He is passionate about the consumer voice and real partnership working that facilitates the best life for the patient, best services for the community, and best value for the nation.

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Troy Kirkpatrick

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