Thursday, December 11, 2008

Safe as airlines

Lots in the press about the NHS killing people through errors. This is from the Torygraph and this from the BBC after the head of the Healthcare Commission has said that the NHS in England and Wales is failing to ensure patient care is "as safe as it reasonably could be". Cue lots of tabloid headlines and industry rebuttals.

Richard Branson complained that the NHS doesn't have air industry safety standards a few months back. Well that is hardly suprising given that it isn't the air industry.

The National Patient Safety Agency have claimed that the actual number of deaths due to errors last year was around 3500. Whatever the number we all want healthcare to be as safe as possible, however with the vast number of humans working in it, it will never be as safe as the air industry.

For me, governance is key. Multiple providers all running as independent companies don't lend themselves to slick processes where patients cross company borders (as is almost always the case in health care). Commissioners have a much harder time governing the safety through contracts rather than through direct management. Patients fall between contractual gaps. Ending the market is not a panacea but it would help.

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