Special report: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Patient Safety

Howard Stoate MP: I was delighted to chair this meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Patient Safety on such an important subject.

Patient safety is higher up the political and media agenda than it has ever been. Not a week goes by without a new issue emerging in Westminster or in the media and increasingly it is of interest to everyone that uses the NHS.

The National Patient Safety Agency estimates that each year up to 450,000 preventable adverse patient safety incidents affect patients admitted to NHS hospitals. This is costing the NHS, 2 billion a year in extended hospital stays alone.

The All-Party Group is the first parliamentary group to look specifically at the issue. It was set up with four objectives in mind. To examine issues concerning patient safety, to increase awareness of these issues and among parliamentarians, to provide a forum for discussion and debate on such issues, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, to generate recommendations for the Government to improve patient safety.

As Health Minister Lord Warner highlighted at the Group’s first meeting, patient safety is currently a top priority for the Department of Health and the NHS and will continue to be high on the agenda during the UK’s Presidency of the European Union, with an EU Patient Safety Summit taking place at the end of November.

I am encouraged that so many people from all areas of healthcare procurement and patient safety came together at this meeting to discuss patient safety in the procurement process. How buyers evaluate medical technologies and make procurement decisions impacts directly on the safety of patients and including patient safety as a pre-purchase criteria will help to prevent adverse future events.

Important questions were raised at the meeting such as how many buyers evaluate a technology before making a purchase today and how easy is it to make informed risk assessments when buying in the NHS? If patient safety is to be a consideration in procurement decisions alongside considerations such as clinical performance and of course budget, evidence and data need to be readily available to support these decisions.

The expert panel of speakers from the Department of Health, the NHS and industry, offered clear insight into how procurement decisions might compromise patient safety or alternatively help to prevent adverse future events and proposed some interesting recommendations for including patient safety in the procurement process.

For all their benefits, medical technologies can sometimes have a negative impact on patients. I hope that some of the issues raised and recommendations coming out of this meeting will contribute to an increased consideration of patient safety in the procurement process.


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