The King’s Fund has today (6 March 2019) published its independent report on the progress and impact made by England’s Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs) in their first four years.

The establishment of PSCs in 2014 signalled the largest safety initiative in the history of the NHS, supporting and encouraging a culture of safety, continuous learning and improvement, across the health and care system.

Funded and coordinated by NHS Improvement, the 15 PSCs are hosted regionally by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and play an essential role in identifying and spreading safer care initiatives from within the NHS and industry, so they can be shared and implemented throughout the system.

The discussion paperImproving patient safety through collaborationA rapid review of the academic health science networks’ patient safety collaboratives – was commissioned by the AHSNs and developed independently by the King’s Fund in late 2018.

In its role as an independent charity helping to shape healthcare policy and practice through research and analysis, the King’s Fund aimed to explore what has worked best in particular circumstances, what practices might be applied more consistently across the collaboratives, and what further learning is needed to increase their effectiveness.

The report’s author, King’s Fund projects director Ben Collins, said in his blog also published today: “Over their first four years, the collaboratives have delivered some fantastic improvement programmes: an emergency laparotomy collaborative that delivered a 42% reduction in risk-adjusted mortality; or a falls collaborative that delivered a 60% reduction in falls.”

He concludes: “From our research on this complex subject, we would advocate a continued commitment to localism in the delivery of improvement projects, realism about the resources required and the likely initial impact of projects, and a focus on creating stable, fulfilling improvement careers.”

The report notes how interest is shifting from supporting the improvement of individual services to improving how different services work together in local systems. It highlights the role the PSC programme has had in creating a movement for change and cultivating a shared vision among health and care organisations. The report also suggests some areas PSCs and national NHS bodies could focus on to further support innovation, quality improvement and patient safety.

Natasha Swinscoe, Chief Executive Officer at West of England AHSN and national AHSN lead for patient safety, said: 

“We welcome the King’s Fund report which provides us with valuable insight into the different approaches the PSCs have developed according to their local systems’ needs and challenges. It shows we are greater than the sum of our parts; working in different ways but with valuable contributions across the collaborative that we can learn from and share.”

Added Dr Séamus O’Neill, Chair of the AHSN Network in England:

“This gives us a number of constructive recommendations for the future based on independent review and analysis. The AHSNs are all about learning from experience and driving continuous improvement. With four years’ experience of delivering the patient safety collaborative programme we now need to build on what works well. This will include standardising practice where it makes sense to do so whilst retaining the freedom PSCs have to innovate flexibly and locally where required.”

You can download the full report here.

Read more reflections from Natasha Swinscoe on the learning and achievements of the Patient Safety Collaboratives in this new blog post on NHS Voices.

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