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The connection between hospital incidents and premise assurance

How rising figures reveal the vital link between PAM and improved patient safety
wet floor sign outside a building
| Robert Hobbs | Healthcare

While healthcare teams on the front lines have been working flat out to improve patient safety, new data has revealed that the very facilities in which they work have been hampering their efforts. New data has shown that crumbling and deteriorating NHS buildings, leaking roofs and faulty equipment have led to a 15 per cent jump in incidents affecting patient care in NHS hospitals, with thousands of patients being hit with delays and put at risk of harm by poor buildings and faulty equipment.

According to statistics from NHS Digital, the maintenance backlog for more than 200 hospital trusts and ambulance services has now reached £9.2bn, with repairs classed as “high risk” increasing by almost 5 per cent in a year to £1.6bn. The data also revealed that the number of clinical service incidents – where care for at least five patients is delayed or cancelled because of power failures, sewage leaks, or equipment failures – jumped 15 per cent in 2020-21 to a total of 6,812.

In total, there have been over 12,000 separate incidents of patient harm or safety risks reported by NHS staff where the hospital’s physical structure or equipment was to blame, and there were 1,600 reports to the Health and Safety Executive where incidents led to patients or staff suffering an injury as part of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

Some of these issues amounted to far more than simple tripping hazards or unsafe wiring - in August, an intensive care unit in Norfolk had to be evacuated over fears the building could pose a direct risk to life and safety of patients from a catastrophic failure of the roof, which was beyond its planned lifespan. Other Trusts have warned that the poor condition of operating theatres could derail their surgical waiting lists, while hospitals have had to cancel surgeries following rat infestations or after fires which triggered electrical faults.

The statistics underline the need for investment across NHS estates and facilities in hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services to tackle the alarming maintenance backlog - to ensure NHS buildings and equipment are safe, efficient and reliable.

But what they also underline is the clear link between NHS premises assurance management (PAM) and incident management – and the vital need for Trusts to have robust PAM and incident management systems in place to help ensure that patient safety risks are effectively captured, promptly investigated, swiftly acted upon and efficiently learned from.

The government recently announced increased revenue funding and increased capital spending on the NHS in 2021 to £5.8bn and has pledged to rebuild 48 hospitals as part of its health infrastructure plan. And while that’s certainly been welcomed by NHS Providers, that focus on improvement needs to be extended to the very tools with which Trusts have been using to handle their PAM and capture incidents. Far too many Trusts have been making do with old, outdated and counterintuitive systems that are slow to implement, and which cause staff to spend far too much time on admin tasks – time that’s better spent caring for patients.

Similarly, the rise in negligence claims as well as reported incidents shows that simply capturing incidents isn’t yet doing enough to reduce the harm being caused, and that Trusts need to move forward on joined up systems for example with an integrated incident management system that’s far more integrated with other sources of information including complaints, audits, self-assessments and policy management and that’s built with LFPSE in mind to help them learn the lessons presented by patient safety incidents.

What Trusts need to be able to do is to capture incidents more quickly and easily, with minimum friction so that staff are not dissuaded from the task by counterintuitive or fiddly capture forms. Additionally, they need to be able to clearly see the status of reported incidents from beginning to end and have clear oversight of the improvement actions that arise from reported incidents, and the ability to easily escalate risks should the urgent need arise. But the ideal solution would not just improve the process of managing incidents – it would tie into the Trust’s PAM, risk management and board assurance framework tools as well, to give everyone in the trust – from ward to board – a 360-degree of patient safety-related risk and the actions necessary to achieve real improvement.

Thankfully InPhase offers advanced digital solutions to make PAM and Incident management easier in exactly the way Trusts need. Not only do they streamline the process of handling PAM and incidents, but they work seamlessly together and integrate with the entire range of InPhase apps to offer better, clearer oversight across the entire Trust.

It’s clear then that while Trusts will need to upgrade and repair their premises and equipment to ensure they’re as safe, efficient and reliable as possible, they will also need to upgrade the PAM and incident management tools that hard-pressed staff work with day in and day out to make their roles as easy as possible and help them delivery significant patient safety improvements.

Robert Hobbs

Chief Executive Officer

InPhase’s Chief Executive and Founder, Robert has been the visionary leading InPhase to be one of the UK's leading providers of management, governance and assurance solutions, and helping organisations align their actions and goals more easily and efficiently with InPhase's suite of integrated apps.

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