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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Medical profession is taking the lead on improving NHS standards

The medical profession wants to lead the way in continuing to drive up standards of care in the NHS.

I'm saying this with regard to today’s Healthcare Commission State of Healthcare 2008 report.

The overall picture in this report is of major improvements to standards of care. BMA Cymru Wales applauds the efforts of NHS staff in reducing the amount of time patients have to wait, and improving the quality of the care they receive.

Unfortunately, the report contains the misleading suggestion that up to 600 errors happen in primary care a day. This is based on data which was mainly gathered outside the UK, and identified that medical error occurs between five and 80 times per 100,000 consultations.

Any errors are of course, regrettable, but there are millions of contacts between the NHS and patients every day. It is inevitable that, in a very small proportion of these, care falls below the highest standards. Doctors want to get rid of unacceptable variations in quality, but we need to be careful to analyse and learn from the causes of low performance rather than jumping to conclusions or simply adopting a blame culture.

Clinical leadership and engagement are essential elements of efforts to drive up quality which is why doctors are working with the NHS to develop new quality measures, including how patients feel about the treatment they’ve received.

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