The must read stories and biggest talking points in the NHS

Communication breakdown

HSJ has learned NHS Improvement has convened a panel of experts to investigate the issue of verbal communication errors in safety critical incidents. This has been prompted by a number of incidents of patient harm involving poor verbal communication reported to the regulator’s patient safety team.

Oxford University’s Professor Trish Greenhalgh is leading the committee, which has already scoured the national reporting system and coroners reports for examples of where communication has gone wrong.

She told HSJ the initial views from the work have highlighted the issues around the environment, attitude, and clarity of communication. Another key factor is the needs of the patient or user.

Professor Greenhalgh said: “We don’t often think about verbal communication. We think about all the written stuff and record keeping but actually there are loads of problems with verbal communication.”

An initial report is expected in the summer followed by a second phase to determine what (if any) solutions can be found.

The project is a welcome move from NHSI, which can bring some sensible recommendations to an area that is commonly cited as a causal factor in incidents and poor care. Inevitably, one aspect that is likely to be highlighted is education and training and this work may underline the need to embed safety training at an early level in health professionals’ careers.

Dame Julie retires

One of the most respected, prominent and influential trust chief executives in the NHS has announced her retirement.

Dame Julie Moore is to leave the newly merged University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, probably by the end of the summer though a date has not been finalised.

In an email to staff, seen by HSJ, she said she had intended to retire two years earlier but stayed on until the merger between UHB and Heart of England FT was complete.

Dame Julie said the process of bringing the organisations together had “not been straightforward” and took “longer than anybody anticipated”. 

“It is now time that I hand on the reins of this single organisation to a successor,” she said. 

Since joining the NHS as a graduate nurse, Dame Julie has become one of the most renowned chief executives in the health service. 

She became chief at UHB in 2006 and was made a dame in 2012 and in 2013 was named among the 100 most powerful women in the UK by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She has frequently been named in HSJ’s top chief executives list and the HSJ100.

Her departure means that, over a period of three years, chief executives have changed at nine out of the 10 Shelford Group foundation trusts (the largest most prestigious teaching hospitals). Only Sir Mike Deegan of Manchester University Foundation Trust has done a longer stint, having taken up the chief post at a predecessor trust in 2001.