Tag Archives: #NHS

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.

What makes a ‘good’ GP?

5 Apr

by Golda Gibson, member of the Greater Manchester PSTRC Research User Group

GoldaGibson_Dr and Pt photo_Apr17_CROPPED

My guess is that for every person there will be a slightly different answer. We all want them to be knowledgeable, to know when something might be going wrong with us and to act decisively thus protecting us from further harm. Where we may differ will be in our personal relationship with our GP, what is perhaps important for one will not necessarily be the same for another. Within us we all have what are known as ‘trigger points’, areas controlled by our emotions, past memories good and bad of how we were related to in a given situation, the ‘building blocks’ of our emotional development that affect how we behave in many circumstances and those momentous moments when we can actually act objectively. You will all be aware of that instantaneous moment when you meet someone for the first time – and dislike them!!! How can that be? It is not THAT person that is the problem, it is our response to past negative experiences which that person has now triggered. This can happen between family, friends, colleagues, the person in the street and yes, with your doctor, he/she too is just another human being with all the ‘baggage’ we all carry around with us each day.  They and we, can be reactive, defensive, introverted, extroverted. They and we, can have home problems, family problems, car problems, even late night problems, but what we want in our exchanges is for our healthcare professional (and us) to be able to ‘place’ those problems where they belong.

When we go to the GP or any healthcare professional for that matter we are asking to be ‘made better’, we are unable to be ‘objective’ about ourselves. This childlike position is vulnerable and it is in this very situation when, if we are not received in a positive away the relationship can falter. What we are looking for is respect for our lack of knowledge, concern for our anxieties, interest in our suffering and empathic understanding of how we feel and why.

Are there such GPs about? Probably not that many but I am very lucky to have found one.

Four years ago when I first became ill my diagnoses floored me. ME!!! – (not M.E.) the one who exercised regularly, ate healthily, kept control over my weight and was still working in her 71st year in a very exacting job, I had become chronically ill, my body had let me down and all that NHS propaganda about the need for a healthy lifestyle hadn’t worked. To make matters even worse, twelve days after my diagnoses my husband had a stroke. In less than two weeks I had become a patient and a carer, my career was over and my whole world had changed irretrievably.

I met my GP not at the point of diagnoses but shortly after when treatment was being started and I was given an urgent appointment. His first words to me on entering his room were …’I’m so sorry’. Those were the first kind words I’d had said to me and they penetrated through this shocked state I was in. Without being fully aware of it I had made a mental note that day that this was the doctor I was going to deal with, this was a ‘feeling’ man, someone who without a word from me had recognised my anguish and made it his own, our ’emotional baggage’ had not got in the way of our first exchange, we were accepting of each other, I was vulnerable, sad, totally overwhelmed and angry, add to that my  ‘feisty’ personality and my anger could have destroyed the moment but his warmth towards me quietened me.  

During that first eighteen months he always made a 4-6 week follow-up appointment for me before I left his surgery, even though there were times I felt that perhaps I didn’t need it. He became my advocate, guiding me, advising me, listening to my concerns and always ready to respond. When treatment with one clinician or another wasn’t up to standard he responded. He never judged me, never made me feel I was a ‘difficult patient’ although I’m sure others might and have!  I ask questions and I expect answers and I know when I was being ‘talked down to’ with rubbish. My GP is never patronising, always and without exception he is pleased to see me, he likes me and I can tell. When I enter his office, time is mine, there is no clock saying ‘time up’, I am made to feel that I have as much time as I need.

As time went on my own condition worsened and also that of my husband. Through numerous ‘urgent’ moments my doctor was always there, guiding, advising and supporting. When I couldn’t get appointments to see him he gave me a ‘hotline’ that allowed me to make direct contact with him should I need it and a promise that he would always ‘fit me in’ should an appointment be necessary. He also connected me to a new innovative community caring system where I am able to make contact with a Nurse Practitioner directly on the day I need it if I became unwell and found it difficult to care for my husband.

My husband who was not initially with him but with another practice, is not very mobile, it is difficult for me to get him to the surgery, impossible at his previous surgery as they were on a main road next to traffic lights with no parking area whatsoever. My doctor has said to me more than once he would call and see ‘H’ at home if it would be easier for me! I have also known him just to phone me to ask how I am when he had not seen me for a while. Very rare qualities.

Some months ago I received an email from one of the doctor ‘comics’ that are delivered to the practices around the country and also electronically. In it an article asked if there was a deserving GP in your practice that was worthy of being nominated for a national champion award for the care of R.A patients. This was my chance to get my wonderful doctor recognised and acknowledged for his exceptional care to me and all his patients. I then had to set up a plan whereby I enlisted the help of the Assistant Practice Manager who in turn sought help from one of the other GPs in the practice to fill in a part of the form I couldn’t due to not being privy to that particular information, and then it was my turn to get my chance (only one) to write about this wonderful man. I knew it had to be written with a passion that conveyed just who he is and what he is to his patients. As I said, I was only going to get this one chance and they had only given me 400 words in which to do it!! There would be many practices and patients nationally who would be submitting their own nominee and there were only ten championship awards to be had in the whole of the country, my writing had to ‘stand out’, it had to make the reader ‘feel’ as I did – AND WE MANAGED IT – HE GOT THE AWARD!!! The ceremony took place at the House of Commons on the 2nd November and the awards were given by the Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May.

Afterwards he wrote me the most beautiful thank you letter in which he told me that the personal qualities I bestow upon him are really a reflection of myself. Doesn’t that just tell you what kind of a man he is. I am extremely fortunate and blessed to have such a doctor. In this crazy 21st century NHS, with reductions and shortages in just about everything, when talking (the same story) to just one more person makes you want to tear your hair out and you begin feeling as though it is you who are the problem. When you hear yourself getting sharp and snappy on the phone to one or other department and no one is actually listening and even if they listen and promise that what you’re asking for will get done – it then doesn’t get acted upon. When I reach that rock bottom moment I have my GP.

Thinking outside of the box: presenting patient safety issues creatively

30 Mar

by Sally Giles, Research Fellow in PPI Research and Jackie Nightingale, member of the Greater Manchester PSTRC Research User Group

In 2016 Sally Giles (Research Fellow, Core Theme) took part in the Academy of Creative Minds programme which brought together a dynamic, disparate group of artists, from composers to circus performers, directors to writers. These artists shared their ‘tricks of the trade’ with health researchers, to help them build confidence and expertise in using the creative arts to convey research messages in a more powerful and meaningful way.

As part of the programme Sally was required to work with one or more of the artists to produce a creative way of conveying a research message of her choice.  Sally worked with a circus performer to develop a way of highlighting communication issues in general practice and how this can affect patient safety.  As part of this process Jackie Nightingale (a member of the Greater Manchester PSTRC Research User Group) was asked to get involved in developing this performance.  Jackie played a starring role as the main patient in the scene.  Their full performance was a major part of the NHS R+D North West Annual Research Conference (video above).

Both Jackie and Sally thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend the course to anyone who would like the opportunity to think outside of the box when trying to get research messages across in an enjoyable and innovative way.

The ‘triple aim’: a reality check

27 Jan

by Jonathan Stokes, Research Associate in the Centre for Health Economics at The University of Manchester

triple-aim_jstokes-blog_jan17

In December, I completed the final exam (or ‘viva’) for my PhD, which was funded by the NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC. In the discussion section of my thesis, I presented an argument that my examiners suggested I should explore further, so I’m using this blog post to try and record some initial thoughts, which I hope to turn into an academic paper at some point (so feel free to post any feedback you have below).

So, my argument, briefly, was this:

  • Health systems are recognised to have a so-called ‘triple aim’, aiming to improve health and satisfaction of patients, while reducing costs. With the move towards ‘integrated care’, policymakers argue that integration can improve all triple-aim outcomes simultaneously.
  • In the NHS, integrated care is defined around the patient’s feeling of joined-up care (i.e. around the outcome of satisfaction). However, policymakers, when setting out the aims of their integrated care models aim primarily to reduce costs, usually by reducing emergency hospital admissions (probably unsurprising given the ‘NHS crisis’ currently being covered in the media).
  • But the literature tells us that the ‘triple aim’ goals are quite complexly interlinked, so achieving one does not necessarily have a beneficial effect on all of the others. For example, the highest patient satisfaction (good) is associated with the highest overall healthcare expenditure (bad), and may be also those experiencing worse health outcomes, e.g. a higher mortality rate (very bad).
  • Therefore, there is a potential conflict between the patient-level (the feeling of more joined up care for the patient) and system-level (reducing costs) goals of integrated care in the NHS, and potentially a need to prioritise aims.

Basically, there is little evidence that the ideal scenario of not having to pay for improvements in care quality is plausible (note: that doesn’t mean we can’t have this improvement, it just implies that we would need to invest more in our health system to get it). And, if we design interventions that address the NHS definition of integration and increase satisfaction with care, then we won’t necessarily meet the pressing system aims of reducing costs in the current NHS funding crisis.

So, to my mind, if we want to contain costs, this would mean that the patient satisfaction aim (while still important, and should continue to be measured) should be bumped down the priority. This is partly because people who are healthier tend to be more satisfied in any case (so it is partially a secondary outcome of better health and should take care of itself if people get better health outcomes), but also because in a tax-funded system like the NHS, where the overarching values are delivering equity and social justice, sustainability of the system is more important than preferences of the individual (i.e. ‘consumer-focused’ healthcare). Especially when aiming primarily for satisfaction of the individual harms the system.

To try and explain why this might be, imagine that if we’re primarily aiming to improve satisfaction with care, implementing an intervention where we gave everyone a dram of whisky as they waited for their appointment might send satisfaction rates through the roof, but it would cost a fortune and might not do people’s health a lot of good.

Healthcare is a complicated process (which is why it takes so long to train healthcare professionals, who in fact never stop receiving training during their working lives). One of the ‘market failures’ in healthcare (i.e. why a normal economic free-market system, where the consumer decides, doesn’t work) is ‘information asymmetry’ (i.e. the expert knows more than others, so can make the more informed decisions). While this asymmetry is clearly in patients’ favour in some aspects (e.g. experience of disease/ experience of using health services/ treatment burden etc.), it favours the physician/expert in others (e.g. treatment course in many cases/ health system setup or organisation/ cost of care etc.). The patient is therefore not likely to make the most informed decision when it comes to overall health system costs.

In view of this, I think there’s an interesting debate to be had about the role of ‘patient-centred’ care more widely, and how this fits with our system goals. For example, I went to a seminar the other day where an NHS Vanguard programme talked about how they were shifting their approach in patient care to one where they ask the patients to define their goals, asking them ‘What matters to you?’. But, before that, we’d had a talk from NHS England about the national metrics that the Vanguards would be assessed on, centred on system goals (again, primarily about reducing avoidable emergency hospital admissions). This got me thinking: what if the patient’s goal is something that doesn’t affect our system goals whatsoever, or is even completely contrary to these? If it was in the USA, the patients themselves (or their health insurer) would pay for the option and it wouldn’t matter so much, but in a tax-funded system there is more need to think resourcefully at this wider system level (and try being poor and getting decent healthcare in the USA if you think that’s the way to go instead).

The role of the patient in influencing/defining research priorities could be another debate. For example, the PSTRC and wider NIHR funders are very focused on Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) in research. But, what if the researcher (while employing common sense, and not purely as a stereotypical ivory-tower-type) has access to more knowledge about where the current knowledge gaps are, and which questions are possible to answer and how? Is it a good use of resources to pay for the ‘lay perspective’ in all cases (or at all)? (But, of course, this is just one simplified question in the debate of the role of PPI in influencing and defining research priorities, the balance of which I hope to explore further in a future post).

In sum, I think some of the assumptions we make (in good faith, I’m sure), about the aims and delivery of health services, and research to support these services, are still open to debate. While we dwell on ideally achieving all outcomes, we neglect the reality of the need for trade-offs and priority setting. But, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Controversial care.data programme closed: What did we learn?

12 Jul

by Rebecca Hays, Research Associate in Multimorbidity theme

careData

After a series of delays, the care.data programme has been closed for good. The decision to end this controversial project was announced following the publication of Dame Fiona Caldicott’s review of health and care data security, consent and opt outs.

The height of the controversy came in February 2014, when the programme was put on hold following NHS England’s highly criticised attempt to inform the public about care.data through a national leaflet drop. Issues with this mail out and the lack of clarity about the project became the subject of many news stories, and a popular topic on social media.

My colleague Gavin Daker-White and I were following the debate on Twitter, where a wide range of views and opinions were being expressed. Tweets highlighted the potential benefits of care.data, revealed worries, provided links to more information, and instructions to opt-out. To better understand the strengths and criticisms of the programme, we undertook a qualitative analysis of tweets containing the hashtag #caredata.

Those for and against the programme shared a range of concerns, including the issues reviewed by Dame Fiona Caldicott. Tweets also identified communication failures, confusion about care.data, and a lack of patient-centeredness. We found these concerns were eroding trust in the healthcare system, which, if ignored, could put patient safety at risk.

Many people will be relieved that the care.data programme has been closed but this is not the end of the story for data sharing in the NHS, and lessons need to be learned. Our work also identified the potential benefits of such projects, for patients and other stakeholders, and recommendations for their design and implementation.

For future programmes to be successful, they must actively engage and involve patients in discussions and decisions about who can access their data and how it can be used. People must also be fully informed about both the risks and benefits of data sharing. Thus, we strongly support Dame Fiona Caldicott’s view that “A key aspect of this work must be a dialogue with the public.”

Note:

Rebecca and Gavin’s paper, “The care.data consensus? A qualitative analysis of opinions expressed on Twitter” was published in BMC Public Health in 2015. A plain English summary [pdf] of this publication is available on our website.

 

Patient Safety as Carrot or Stick?

27 Apr

by Gavin Daker-White , Research Fellow in Multimorbidity theme

Junior Doctors Strike

In the patient safety literature, it is widely recognised that a team learning culture is crucial in reducing the incidence of errors or harms in health care settings. Thus, developing a “safety culture” lies at the heart of the NHS approach to improving patient safety, as exemplified by the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS). Drawing on other industries, including aviation, it has been shown that a, “blame-free environment where individuals are able to report errors or near misses without fear of reprimand or punishment” is an important component of patient safety culture. However, it has also been shown that a blame culture persists, as evident in a recent literature review undertaken in our research centre.

Anyone who has been following the ongoing dispute between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government over a proposed new employment contract for junior doctors will know that “patient safety” is a term that is regularly used to further arguments on both sides. The current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has argued that a 7-day NHS will improve patient safety. On the other side, the BMA argues that the proposed new contract will lead to junior doctors working unsafe hours. Over the last two days, media reports such as those here and here, have focused on what the effect on patient safety is of the industrial action itself. Again, a variety of views are discernible representing both sides in the dispute.

It is not the purpose of this piece to explain the nature of this industrial action; nor to take sides. As a patient safety researcher and sociologist, what interests me is the way that all sides seem to use “patient safety” as an explanation for policies or actions, or as an apparent stick with which to beat the other side. We know from clinically focused studies that “blame” is not helpful when attempting to promote learning cultures that can improve the safety of patients using health services. Whilst this might point to a potential to transfer notions of “safety culture” from the health service shop floor to policy making arenas,  what is more interesting to me is the way that the term “patient safety” seems to be forming a kind of trope in rhetoric around health policy and practice.

The term “Patient Safety” is increasingly a lens used to explain, evaluate and argue for or against issues in health care delivery. Where previous generations might have been concerned about survival rates, waiting times for appointments, or costs of care; the contemporary focus seems to be about degrees of safety. Even a cursory glance at the media surrounding the junior doctors’ dispute reveals a focus on patient safety, although it appears wedded to a ‘blame’ culture which is unlikely to work if the goal is to reduce the incidence of errors or harms.

Is this dispute really about patient safety?

Patient Safety: Blame the System?

27 Aug

by Gavin Daker-White, Research Fellow, Multimorbidity theme, NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC, The University of Manchester

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” (Cool Hand Luke, 1967, Warner Bros/Seven Arts)

Part Three - Blame the system

This is the last of 3 blogs that discusses the results of a review of qualitative studies of patient safety in primary care as undertaken by researchers at the NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC and NUI Galway. The review, published in August 2015 (and available here) examined 48 studies grouped into 5 topic areas:

  1. Patients’ perspectives around safety (8 articles)
  2. Staff perspectives on safety (14 articles)
  3. Medication safety (10 articles)
  4. Organisational or management issues (7 articles)
  5. Care transitions between primary care and hospitals (9 articles)

The story of patient safety contained in the articles reads essentially as a clash between imperfect and infallible human beings on the one hand, and standardised medical systems on the other. In the final part of the series of blogs that discuss the results of this review we examine the findings concerning the organisation and delivery of care.

Of the 48 papers included in the review, 7 were focused on systems issues and it was noteworthy that most were ethnographic in nature; that is they relied on observation and interviews by researchers examining health services settings during normal working hours. Most of these studies had staff as participants, as opposed to patients. Whereas the studies concerned with staff perceptions of patient safety also included much concerning the organisation of care, such findings were not evident in the studies where patients were interviewed. For patients, the only relevant finding was that patients appeared unaware of normal clinical protocols or procedures, against which they would have been able to gauge and judge their own experiences, e.g. of waiting to be informed of test results.

One group of findings concerned the characteristics of computer systems that could variously increase or reduce the potential for errors according to features of design or quality of stored information. In other instances it was simply that staff had not been trained properly to use new equipment or software. Procedural standardisation of all kinds could seemingly work for or against safety in different circumstances. Thus both EHRs and clinical protocols had the capacity to create an illusion or even a false sense of security. New protocols had the capacity to create additional workloads on already overworked staff and could have knock on effects that weren’t considered prior to implementation. These findings point to a need to better investigate whether a ‘one size fits all’ approach is preferable (in safety terms) as opposed to one based around the uniqueness of individual and ‘complex’ patients.

A systems approach was preeminent in the nine articles that reported findings from studies about ‘handoff’ or ‘handover’ processes between hospitals and primary care. The main problems included patients being discharged from hospital with insufficient information or medical supplies (e.g. drugs or bandages) and the vulnerable characteristics of some patients. In the same way that patients were ignorant about how processes work in primary care, GPs were perceived to view hospitals as a “kind of black box” (Russ et al., 2009) and might be uncertain about how or whether communication between care providers takes place (Arora et al., 2010).

       Across the 48 studies, the following aspects of health systems were seen to compromise or threaten patient safety in primary care:

  •        Dispersed or insufficient patient information
  •        Byzantine organizational structures
  •            Drugs and care not transferable between primary care and hospitals
  •        Non compatible systems between sectors
  •        Budgetary constraints
  •        Perceived inflexibility and irrelevance of guidelines (e.g. in multimorbidity)

The findings of the studies pointed to the following ways of improving health systems in terms of patient safety:

  • ·         Improved medical records
  •        Effective communication between primary and secondary care
  •        Better resources
  •        Reliable systems
  •        Timely accessibility and updatability of information
  •        Standardization and improvements in knowledge, regulations, reporting and processes

References

Arora VM, Prochaska ML, Farnan JM, D’Arcy MJt, Schwanz KJ, et al. (2010) Problems after discharge and understanding of communication with their primary care physicians among hospitalized seniors: a mixed methods study. J Hosp Med 5: 385-391.

Russ AL, Zillich AJ, McManus MS, Doebbeling BN, Saleem JJ (2009) A human factors investigation of medication alerts: barriers to prescriber decision-making and clinical workflow. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2009: 548-552.