England’s new patient safety drive to halve avoidable harm will be “brave” and not follow the usual “paternal” NHS approach to driving improvements, the director of the Sign up Safety campaign has told HSJ.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt formally launched the 15 patient safety collaboratives that will support the Sign up to Safety campaign this week.

He confirmed that the collaboratives will be hosted by the country’s 15 academic science health networks and receive £12m a year for the next five years.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said the patient safety collaboratives would each receive £12m a year for the next five years

Campaign director Suzette Woodward told HSJ the launch laid a marker so that the NHS could in the future look back to see what had been achieved.

She revealed trusts would be able to bid for one off payments from the NHS Litigation Authority to make improvements to safety worth up to 10 per cent of their premiums.

The average payment by trusts was £3.5m in 2010-11.

Safety improvements must be targeted at areas where the trust has had costly claims in the past and could include more equipment, additional training for staff or employing a research nurse, she said.

So far 110 organisations have signed up the campaign.

Mr Hunt has set a target to halve avoidable harm over the next three years through the campaign and the collaboratives.

However, Ms Woodward told HSJ the campaign and the collaboratives, which were recommended by the Berwick report into patient safety, were a new approach to improvement in the NHS.

“This isn’t about putting organisations on a performance chart; Sign up to Safety is not going to call them to account, the system will do that,” she said.

“The campaign organisers know people in the NHS genuinely want to improve the care they provide, we are trusting them with that and the [NHS Litigation Authority] are providing some money to help and we’ll see over a period of time if it has made a difference.

“It’s quite a brave thing to do. The usual NHS approach which is quite paternal and asking people to show they’ve made a difference before they’ve had chance to have an impact. It takes time to make improvements and make them sustainable.”