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Our staff play major role in 10 years of world’s first national patient safety programme

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ten years after setting up the world’s first national programme to drive up patient safety, patients across Scotland are reaping the benefits of improvements driven by our staff.


The board’s staff have been the driving force behind many healthcare innovation projects as part of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP). In the years since, board staff have been single-minded in their determination to drive up standards in patient safety. 

As a result, the last decade has seen a marked culture change in how health and social care staff across Scotland work. 

Prior to SPSP, global evidence suggested nearly 1 in 10 patients admitted to a hospital would be unintentionally harmed with more than 40% of the incidents could have been avoided. 

However, significant changes in the way staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI) and hospitals across the Clyde sector worked have had far reaching benefits for patients across Scotland. 

Dr Malcolm Daniel, consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the GRI, led the critical care improvement work in the GRI’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He said: “The SPSP programme’s quality improvement methodology helped us to drive forward the changes we wanted in place to help patients. 

“We tested – and made lots of changes – to the way we worked. As part of these changes we reduced the rate of some key hospital acquired infections. Our rate of central line blood stream infections was already so low that we were in the top 10% of ICUs internationally for prevention. However, we’ve gone from four infections every three months to more than three years between infections. 

“Our delivery of care has improved which has led to better patient health and shorter stays in ICU. Before we started SPSP the ICU at GRI was often full with one in every six patients referred to us being transferred to a hospital with an available ICU bed. 

“Within one year of SPSP starting, our average length of stay had reduced, a bed was more likely to be available, and the number of patients requiring to be transferred to an ICU bed in another hospital was less than one in every 30 referrals.” 

As a result of his work in the SPSP programme in the Clyde sector, Professor Kevin Rooney was appointed as the national clinical lead for Sepsis and deteriorating patients. 

Kevin said: “We identified changes to improve patient care and the learning from implementing these changes in practice completely transformed the way we continually measure our processes for improvement and change. 

“It is now more than 2,275 days since our last catheter related blood stream infection. Previously, we used to have one a month. We now feel that diseases like this are entirely preventable and should be confined to the history books. 

“SPSP has resulted in huge improvements in both health and social care for the people of Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Scotland as a whole. It has spread from health care to social care and finally education, making Scotland one of the best places in the world to live longer healthier lives. 

Dr Jennifer Armstrong, medical director, said: “Healthcare is delivered within a constantly changing landscape. Given this, it’s a real testament to our dedicated staff that we have delivered so many improvements in patient care. 

“It’s important that the range of programmes within SPSP have continually adapted to ensure the work of SPSP remains topical and relevant, while maximising the impact across the country of improvements in patient healthcare. 

“We are determined, as a board, to continue to learn from the achievements we have already realised, reflect on the experiences of those who have been part of the process, and always strive to further improve patient safety.” 

Since its inception, the programme has expanded to support improvements in safety across a wide range of care settings including acute and primary care, mental health, maternity, neonatal, paediatric services and in medicine safety. 

More recently the primary care programme has expanded beyond general practice to include care homes, dentistry, pharmacy, and community and district nursing.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021