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Brazil, South Africa and Kenya, according to Forbes, are the most dangerous places on earth, to live.

A cocktail of poverty, political instability and poor law enforcement. The US is 11th in the top fifteen and the popular tourist destinations, Egypt 8th and Turkey number five.

The safest; Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway. The UK doesn’t feature in either lists.

Nevertheless, I think it is reasonable for the public to consider the NHS, one of the safest places on earth. Well, I think it depends on how you define ‘safe’.

According to the latest data, nine patients every week, fall victim to ‘never’ events and have the wrong bit cut off, have detritus from operations, sewn-up inside them or have the wrong operation carried out.

Some patients were given overdoses of drugs including insulin, while others had feeding tubes misplaced and put into their airways. Medics also transfused the wrong type of blood to six patients, while 52 people had the wrong teeth taken out.

All this, notwithstanding the incessant attention and costs of the CQC, charged with keeping us safe. Plainly, they don’t.

We can’t tell if the situation is getting worse, or better, as someone has cunningly changed how ‘never-events’ are recorded. Smart, eh?

Somebody from the NHS is quoted as saying, in terms; the NHS looks after a lot of people, so what do you expect.

Well, that’s alright then… and anyway, they added… ‘we have a ‘world leading’ incident reporting system’.

Ah, I feel safer already.

Actually, I’m not sure I do. The system is under pressure, people are harried and rushed, and guess what, mistakes happen. Add to that the cocktail of regulators and managers making unreasonable demands and guess what… things get covered up.

It’s not people at work. It’s human nature at work.

Is the NHS safe? It’s a fair question.

How can it be when we all know, for starters, we are 40,000 nurses short. The DH say, there were 224,000 hospital nurses on average during last year – up by 4.6% in five years. Under 1% a year…

What the don’t tell you is how much the number of admissions to hospital had gone up by. Last year there were 14.2m, which is 12.3% higher than it was five years ago.

Nurse ratios, one to eight… forget it.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the data should act as a;

“stark warning… staffing shortfalls are never simply numbers on a spreadsheet – they affect real patients in real communities.”

She said there needed to be a new law to ensure safe staffing, as has been introduced in Wales and Scotland. She also said she wanted a national body to be created to properly plan the nursing numbers needed in the future.

For the record; there is a little thing called Brexit going on, Parliament is paralysed and the chances of finding parliamentary time for new legislation is zilch.

Add the fact; there are nowhere near enough nurses, passing a law would be facile, until there are enough.

A national body to properly plan nursing numbers? Well, it’s called Health Education England, NHSImprovement and the Chief People Officer’s People Plan… how many more organisations do we want?

When can we expect the Plan?

I’d have guessed November, but that puts it slap bang in the middle of an election, a referendum, a hung parliament and any other shenanigans Boris can dream up… if he’s not in the Tower for telling pokies to HMQ.

If it’s a properly strategic plan it will have new training, new curricula, new regulation, more training placements and need more money. That means Treasury buy-in and legislative time, so, now, I think it’ll be pushed into next year.

Is the NHS a safe place?

Safety and for that matter, quality, is simple enough. It is conformance to requirements.

Figure out what you want, put things in place to be sure you can get it, all the time, every time… until you don’t want it any more.

What do we want? The regulators to lay-off, a massive effort to keep the nurses we have and an urgent, national push to recruit more.

Is the NHS safe?


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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.