New data-led NHS safety strategy lets patients log concerns


A fresh drive to improve patient safety across the NHS will see patients able to log concerns about their care via a new digital service accessible through their smartphone.

Under the new Patient Safety Strategy, patients will be able to anonymously submit information if they are unhappy with their treatment or care – for example, if they are prescribed the wrong medicines or receive poor post-operation treatment.

Patients, staff and families will all be able to submit data to the system, with identifiable information such as names and date of birth kept anonymous.

The initiative replaces the 15-year-old National Reporting and Learning System and aims to offer a single and easy-to-use entry point for data regarding problems with medical devices, medicines administration errors and difficulties in spotting a patient’s condition deteriorating.

Data will be collected and analysed to provide insight on patient safety and identify areas of improvement, on both local and national levels.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) hopes the recording of such information will allow the NHS’s national patient safety team to identify risks of serious harm and allow healthcare providers to exchange best practice, thereby helping to prevent the same mistakes being repeated across the country.

At a local level, the self-service portal will give NHS staff access to data that can support them in their own specific work environments.

Caroline Dinenage, minister for care, said: “This innovative new digital service for reporting and learning from incidents will provide a more holistic way of collecting and analysing vital data to help improve care right across the NHS.

“Our brilliant NHS staff have a vital role to play and this will empower them further, as well as giving every patient and their family a say on the safety of the care they receive. Patient safety is key to our Long Term Plan for the NHS and this approach will provide the NHS with new insight on how care and services can be improved, to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.”

The new Patient Safety Strategy is being led by Dr Aidan Fowler, national director for patient safety at NHS Improvement and NHS England.

Dr Fowler will “set the direction for patient safety improvements over the next decade, working hand-in-hand with the Long Term Plan to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world,” according to the DHSC.

Dr Fowler said: “The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a package of care which will save thousands of lives, and our new strategy to enhance patient safety will mean people get care in the safest possible setting.

“The NHS is already a trailblazer on safety with the world’s first and largest reporting system, and to future-proof the NHS for the 21st century, this new system is part of a decade-long vision for improving patient safety in the NHS, using the latest technology to make it easier for patients, their families and staff to report incidents, learn lessons and keep the NHS in England safe and effective for our patients.”

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at Nuffield Trust, said the new recording system would prove instrumental in enabling the NHS to record patient data from new sources – such as wearables and apps – that could be used to inform patient care.

“This could provide the opportunity to understand safety and risk in a much wider range of care settings, including at home,” Scobie wrote in a blog post.

“This is where patients spend the majority of their time, yet it is also the biggest gap in our knowledge.

“Using the information the health service increasingly generates routinely has the potential to bring about a historic shift in our ability to keep patients safe and prevent harm, and that makes it too good an opportunity to pass up.”

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