Archive | July, 2014

Reflections on the power of a patients’ story and glimpses into the future

14 Jul

by Aneez Esmail, Director of the Greater Manchester PSTRC


One of the advantages of being the Director of the Centre is that occasionally I get asked to attend and speak at interesting conferences. One of these was the Patient Safety Congress, which is billed as the premiere patient safety event in England. This is a monster of a conference with hundred’s of NHS staff mainly from acute trusts attending. And of course the ubiquitous NHS managers who in my opinion are developing even more complex titles to describe what they do. Some no longer have safety in their title (patient experience is the new buzz word) and I am always asking people who are introduced to me – so what is it that you do? The sad thing is that I still don’t know after what is inevitably a 2-minute explanation- perhaps an interesting barometer of the NHS in 2014. It was also sad to see so little focus on patient safety in primary care, though there was a surprisingly good attendance from researchers and clinicians at the workshop that I was speaking at.

However the highlight for me was meeting Margaret Murphy who I first met when she gave a heart breaking account of how her son died as a result of a patient safety incident that had its origins in primary care. Listen to her presentation that she made at the final Linneaus Conference (a large European project on patient safety which I led). If you ever need reminding why patient safety is important, listen to Margaret and commit to doing something about it (Look at the Video’s – Margaret Murphy –Importance of involving patients).

The other interesting conference was an invitation to the Health Service Journal Innovation Summit. This was supported by the NHS Innovation Unit and some private companies, who are already muscling in and making a pitch for the billions of funding that the NHS has. From the patient safety perspective there were some very interesting presentations made by companies developing apps for smartphones – many of which have a patient safety angle. So for example ‘apps’ which remind patients of possible side effects of medication, ‘apps’ that monitor patient bio data like mood, BP, pulse and blood sugar. I of course talked to them about how we can engage patients in primary care and they may be potential partners as we start work on some of the projects in the GP theme. There are many working in the area, one such company is

Interestingly there was also a company (doing very well apparently), which has directly used ideas that we developed on patient safety culture in Manchester ( They billed themselves an investigatory unit, working to improve things after disasters such as Mid Staffs and working with Boards to improve their resilience. Really what they are doing is assessing safety culture. So here is an interesting concept – they use publicly funded research to develop tools that they then repackage and sell back to the NHS! Brave New World. It did make me wonder whether we as academics are missing a few tricks here.