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Patient Safety: the way forward

8 Aug

by Stephen Campbell, Director of the NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC

University campus

Seventy five percent of patient safety research is focused on hospitals. Less is known about patient safety outside hospitals, yet 85% of NHS contacts happen in these settings, mostly in general practice and in pharmacies. The scale of primary care in England is huge. There are 340 million general practice consultations annually, with 2% involving a patient safety incident, which means 6.8 million times each year where a patient is potentially at risk of harm. There are one billion prescriptions issued per year outside of hospitals, with 4.9% having an error – 49 million every year. And 20% of patients discharged from hospital will report an adverse event, which could lead to costly readmission to hospital. On 1 August 2012, the Greater Manchester Primary Care Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (Greater Manchester PSTRC) started, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).  Our PSTRC has been a groundbreaking centre as it was the first patient safety centre to focus on primary care (general practice, community pharmacies etc.) as well as the interfaces with hospital care. The focus on primary care was intentional and needed.

We have achieved many improvements in primary care safety over the last 5 years. For example, we have developed a “Safer Prescribing” e-learning course for GPs, which has reduced prescribing errors.  We have developed a Medication Safety Dashboard as a “missed opportunity detector” that has resulted in fewer patients being at risk of potentially hazardous prescribing. We have used mobile technology such as smartphone apps to deliver safer healthcare. As an example, ClinTouch monitors symptom change in people with serious mental illness. We have worked in partnership with patients, GPs and pharmacists to create a Patient Safety Guide for general practice.

I am a health services researcher who has focused on the quality and safety of primary care for 25 years. Over that time there have been many advances in improving quality and safety but equally people are living longer, often with several health conditions requiring care from many different sources, in a world that becomes ever more complex with new digital technologies and “intelligent healthcare communities”. Most research and advances in patient safety are typically found within single care settings, such as the emergency department. Less attention has been paid to safety between (transitional) community providers and hospital care settings. Delayed diagnosis, incomplete patient information and medication errors are examples of problems, which may occur both within settings and across an interface. That is why we shall focus on primary care but also on transitional care settings in our second period of 5-years of funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which started on 1 August 2017.

Over the next 5 years, our research will focus on:

  • Safety Informatics – developing technologies and behaviours that create safer care systems and to prevent diagnostic errors – working with the Health e-Research Centre
  • Medication Safety –developing safety management systems to ensure safer prescribing and treatment and to prevent medication errors
  • Safer Care Systems and Transitions – a new theme, to make care safer for patients moving between care settings
  • Safety in Marginalised Groups – a new theme – to enable patients and carers to take control of their care. There will be a key focus on patients and carers as well as mental health, working with the Centre for Mental Health and Safety

Service responsibility and patient responsibility for patient safety go hand-in-hand. They are equal. A member of the public seeking healthcare as a patient for themselves or a loved-one deserves the safest and best quality care possible. That is the duty of healthcare providers and professionals. Avoiding errors, or identifying and correcting them, is a high priority. Equally, patients can do much to keep themselves safer in terms of accessing care appropriately, taking medications as prescribed, self-managing a healthy lifestyle with sensible eating and drinking as well as exercising etc. This is the responsibility of each member of the public. It is a shared responsibility that requires co-design and partnership working, which underpins everything we do.

A key aspect of our work, and something which I think is crucial to the PSTRC, is capacity building and training people to be able to conduct and apply research. This includes recruiting PhD students, helping a group of pharmacists to work together on research projects in their own pharmacies, and training researchers as well as members of the public and patients. Healthcare isn’t just about a medical procedure or treatment option, it is about people, both those who deliver the care and those who receive it or work in partnership together. The PSTRC aims to be an interactive research centre working with healthcare professionals, the NHS, local authorities, industry and patients, carers and members of the public to make healthcare safer.

Much is happening in Greater Manchester that gives us opportunities to make a real difference. We will work across Greater Manchester’s newly-integrated Health and Social Care Partnership which serves 3 million people. The Connected Health Cities programme across the north of England will help us get our research implemented. We will continue to work in partnership with colleagues at the University of Nottingham, especially in the research on safer transitions and medication safety. We look forward to new collaborations with colleagues at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust. There is much we can do using new digital technologies and behavioural interventions to improve safety and healthcare for the benefit of patients.

I want to thank everyone who has been involved with the PSTRC over the last 5 years. I look forward to working with everyone in the new PSTRC to continue our exciting, innovative and important research. The PSTRC has many outstanding and world-leading researchers and an excellent core staff. There is much to do but we will continue to build the capacity to make care safer.

The PSTRC has a strong involvement and engagement agenda working alongside members of the public and patients as well as healthcare professionals. If you would like to find out more about our research and how you can get involved then please email Zarina Saeed at zarina.saeed@manchester.ac.uk .

 

Introducing…Safer Care Transitions

1 Jun

by Justin Waring (University of Nottingham) and Harm van Marwijk (University of Manchester)

Safer Care Transitions will be one of the research themes in the NIHR PSTRC Greater Manchester which will run from 1 August 2017 until 31 July 2022.

Safer Care Transitions blog icon

Patient journeys are full of care transitions. By transitions, we mean that the responsibility for patient care is transferred or handed over from one team, department or organisation to another.

If we think about someone who experiences an accident at work, they might be seen at first by a paramedic before being transported by ambulance to their local hospital’s emergency department. There they might receive urgent care before being admitted into the hospital for follow-up care. When recovered, the patient will then be discharged home or to community setting where they could receive rehabilitation, nursing care, social care and follow-up treatments by their GP, under the primary medical responsibility of the GP.  The GPs’ medical records can follow most of such transitions and provide an overarching view, but others (patients) cannot access such data now. GPs would be seen to have an overarching responsibility to facilitate seamless management between settings but little work has been done on this.

Transitions are common to virtually all patient journeys, because healthcare services are provided by specialists and professionals who work in different clinics, surgeries and hospitals. Although there is now better understanding of what makes for safer care within each of these care settings, there is less of a clear picture about what makes for safer care transitions between these care settings, and how to develop problem-based records that capture transitions and are accessible to more than GP practices.

There is mounting evidence from around the world that care transitions are a high-risk stage in the patient journey. Research from the US, for example, suggests that as many as two out of every ten hospital discharges will experience some form of safety incident. These safety incidents take the form of incorrect medicines, missing equipment, or inappropriate care planning.  Research within the NHS suggests that it is often difficult to coordinate the involvement of different professionals and specialists because of common communication breakdowns and the difficulties of finding time to work together to identify solutions to common problems or work from a shared and validated record. A recent Healthwatch report highlighted the enormous suffering and anxiety experienced by patients as they approach hospital discharge, often because of the uncertainties about when they will go home, who will look after them, and how they will cope. Current resources constraints within the health and social care sectors have seemed to make these problems worse, with limits on the availability of social care to support safe hospital discharge.

The Patient Safety Translational Research Centre Greater Manchester is leading a programme of research that will develop new learning about what makes for safer care transitions. It will look to ways of working and technological breakthroughs in other sectors to learn lessons for the NHS. For example, many courier and supply chain services use advanced technologies to track their deliveries. There is also greater scope to empower patients to coordinate their own care through developing smart technologies that enable them to manage and share their own records with different healthcare professionals. There is also much healthcare services could learn from other industries about ensuring continuous accountability for care, so that someone is always there to speak up for and protect the safety of patients, and ways to develop such support for the most vulnerable trajectories such as around cancer and frail older people.

The projects developed in this theme will address the safety of care transitions in primary and secondary care, in mental health services, in chronic conditions, cancer care, and end of life care, to ensure learning and innovations are shared across the health and social care sectors.

Further information:

Healthwatch (2016) Safely Home, London: Healthwatch. http://www.healthwatch.co.uk/safely-home

Waring, J., Bishop, S., & Marshall, F. (2016). A qualitative study of professional and carer perceptions of the threats to safe hospital discharge for stroke and hip fracture patients in the English National Health Service. BMC health services research, 16(1), 297.

https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-016-1568-2

Forster, A. J., Murff, H. J., Peterson, J. F., Gandhi, T. K., & Bates, D. W. (2003). The incidence and severity of adverse events affecting patients after discharge from the hospital. Annals of internal medicine, 138(3), 161-167.