Ursula Clarke, Kent Surrey and Sussex Patient Safety Collaborative’s Patient Safety Lead, reflects on the successes of 2021/22 and looks at how KSS PSC is set to support and develop patient safety over the coming year.

She reflects on the challenges of working with new groups, the importance of working strategically with partners, and the power of creativity in tackling wicked problems.

What are some of the delivery highlights from 2021/22?

From a strategic perspective it’s fantastic that we’ve been able to work with our ICSs at a strategic level, working with Chief Nurses & Nursing Directors to better understand their problems and look at how our approach can support their work. That has been a great opportunity for us, but I also think it’s fair to say that it’s benefitted our ICS colleagues to be able to speak to an organisation that’s not looking at potential problems from the perspective of assurance. Instead we can act as a critical friend and offer a Quality Improvement approach that can help address any issues they’re facing.

From an operational level we’ve been incredibly busy across a range of projects. These include establishing our Care Home Network and running three events; creating a close partner with the Operational Neonatal Network to align our future work in Operation and Stabilisation of the Preterm infant; we’ve worked with more than 100 clinicians, including third-year student midwives, to look at psychological aspects around escalation when deterioration is evident; and we’ve engaged with Regional Patient Safety Specialist Clinical Leads to lead the inaugural face-to-face South East Patient Safety Conference that we sponsored this year.

What have you learnt during the year?

We definitely learned a lot from our work in care homes. This was a new area for us, and with more than 1700 community care homes across Kent, Surrey and Sussex it was a huge challenge. The key learning we took from that work was that, in care home environments, you need to be able to show that you’re making a difference, but gathering the necessary data to evidence that was very difficult.

We’ve learned that we need to get better at working with care home personnel, and that means tailoring our approach to mirror theirs – that can be simple things like using the word resident instead of patient, or to be more aware of their level of experience and understanding of Quality Improvement approaches. In many ways we’re starting from scratch, but that’s been incredibly helpful by forcing us to go back to basics and really look at the support we can offer and the approaches that we take.

What are your plans for this financial year?

We recently hosted the inaugural South East Patient Safety Conference event in July this year. Colleagues from Wessex and Oxford PSCs joined us and it was the first chance to get the Patient Safety Specialists together in one place. We ran a range of sessions to build engagement across the group, to increase our collective understanding of the role and the scope of what we can achieve together.

Most importantly we’ll be creating a safe space in which to network. People will be able to talk to each other and share their concerns and fears, but also be creative and think about how we can do things differently. Having the time to stop and think about that bigger picture is really important, and it’s that kind of opportunity that, understandably, was lost during Covid.

Of course there is also the whole range of work that comes through our national commissions. We’re going to be continuing our MatNeo, Mental Health, and Deterioration in Care Homes work from last year, but also adding in work on safe medicines and reducing opiates, and Systems Safety which includes supporting the new Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF).

What are your ambitions for your work over the next two to five years?

I’d like to make sure that we continue to build on the work with the region’s Patient Safety Specialists. They’re such a key group and I strongly believe that we can bring new, creative approaches to tackle the wicked problems together.

I’m equally passionate about our MatNeo work and want to see that develop and grow over the next five years, not only because of the benefits that it brings to mothers and babies, but also because it remains one of the most expensive specialities for litigation following poor practice.

Read the Annual Review 2021/22 here.