Government policy is a greater threat to patient safety than striking nurses

While ministers play up the risks to health posed by nurses and ambulance workers striking over staffing levels and pay, the evidence over the past 12 months would suggest it’s the impact of government policies that represents the real threat to patient safety.

A detailed analysis of that evidence emerged earlier this month with the launch of the National State of Patient Safety 2022 report – ‘What we know about avoidable harm in England’.  It identified issues linked to an under-resourced and consequently over-stretched workforce, and called for a robust workforce plan – long-promised but never delivered by the government – and improvements in the quality and breadth of patient safety data.

And a global study published in September in the British Medical Journal found that doctors suffering from burnout – a huge problem over the past 12 years among doctors working in the NHS, where sleep deprivation is widely accepted as contributing to mistakes – were more likely to compromise patient safety.

Earlier this year a General Medical Council survey revealed that the risk of burnout among trainee doctors was “at its worst since it was first tracked”, and a similar survey by the Medical Defence Union showed that 26 per cent of doctors said that tiredness had impaired their ability to provide safe care.

Full story in the Lowdown, 20 December 2022