How NICE is improving patient safety

Annual patient safety update covers the period from September 2019 to September 2020

Professor Kevin Harris, NICE's senior responsible officer for patient safety

The role of the senior responsible officer for patient safety was established to bring together strands of patient safety across NICE, providing a source of advice and oversight accessible throughout the organisation. Last week, the NICE public board meeting considered the my first annual patient safety update.

The update summarises patient safety matters at NICE from September 2019 to September 2020, during which time the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety (IMMDS) review was published. The review investigated patient concerns about harmful side effects from medicines and medical devices, focusing on the hormone pregnancy test Primodos, anti-epileptic drug sodium valproate and surgical mesh. However, it made additional recommendations that are relevant for  our healthcare system’s response to, and responsibility for, any patient safety issues.   

The IMMDS report is powerful and poignant reminder of the human cost when patient safety is compromised. For patient safety is about avoiding harm to people during healthcare, be it unintended or unexpected. As one of three components of quality healthcare alongside clinical effectiveness and patient experience, it is fundamental to NICE’s work in providing national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. 

The board paper proposed NICE develops a unified approach to patient safety, integrating the excellent work already occurring in different parts of the organisation. It will build on existing structures and draw on the expertise of the Science, Evidence and Analytics Directorate to consider how new technology such as artificial intelligence could help detect patient safety signals more quickly in the future. The work will also explore how patient safety at NICE can evolve and integrate with NICE Connect, our multiyear project which will transform the way we produce and present our guidance and the lives of people receiving care.

In view of NICE’s key role in supporting quality health and social care, a clear and accessible patient safety structure across the organisation will help improve not only our own patient safety activity, but also support learning and action in the wider health system. Patient safety is a shared value that reflects a central tenet of care: first do no harm.

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