Health and Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Conservative, South West Surrey 1:17 pm, 16th January 2020

Actually, we do have WHO checklists throughout the NHS in England—I think they were introduced under Lord Darzi in the last Labour Government—but the truth is that even with those checklists, which are an important innovation, mistakes are still made because sometimes people read through lists and automatically give the answer they think people want to hear. This is why we have to be continually vigilant.

What is the solution? It is to ask ourselves honestly, when a mistake happens and when there is a tragedy, whether we really learn from that mistake or whether we brush it under the carpet. To understand how difficult an issue that is, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the doctor or nurse when something terrible happens, such as a baby dying. It is incredibly traumatic for them, just as it is for the family. They want to do nothing more than to be completely open and transparent about what happened and to learn the lessons, but we make that practically impossible. People are terrified about being struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council or the General Medical Council. They are worried about the Care Quality Commission and about their professional reputation. They are worried about being fired. In order for a family whose child is disabled at birth to get compensation, they have to prove that the doctor was negligent, but any doctor is going to fight that.

The truth is that many of the mistakes that are made are not negligence, but we make it so difficult to be open about the ordinary human errors that any of us make in all our jobs. As we are not doctors and nurses, people do not generally die when we make mistakes. That shows the courage of entering that profession, and if we make it difficult for people to be open, we will not learn from those mistakes. That is why we need to change from a blame culture to a learning culture. That is also why, as we reflect on the devastating news that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Ms Dorries gave the House last night that the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is now examining 900 cases dating back 40 years, we realise that the journey that the NHS has started on patient safety must continue. We should take pride in the fact that we are the only healthcare system in the world that is talking about this issue as much as we are, and if we get this right, we can be a beacon for safe healthcare across the world and really turn the NHS into the safest and highest-quality healthcare system anywhere.