Luton and Dunstable foundation trust's chief executive explains the steps the organisation has taken to improve its safety culture

Stephen Ramsden, chief executive of Luton and Dunstable foundation trust, is a man with a mission.

In an interview with the website saferhealthcare.org.uk, he talks about the steps the trust has taken to prioritise safety issues and to work on the long task of changing the hospital's safety culture.

He says that Luton and Dunstable goes 'looking for trouble', explaining: 'What we are trying to do is identify patients most susceptible to death or harm, and then put measures in place to safeguard them.

'At the moment throughout the trust we've got over 20 initiatives tackling issues in different settings to protect patient safety, and this is as well as having our reporting system in place feeding information back into the [National Patient Safety Agency's] national reporting and learning systems.'

Early warning system
Luton and Dunstable's death rates are now 10 per cent better than the national average, after three years of safety improvement work.

Stephen says: 'From our experience, the biggest gain has been the combination of critical care outreach with our improved early warning system and improved basic observations.

'Together, we think these three things have reduced our mortality rates. We've seen a two-step decrease in cardiac arrests - first one per week and now double. Even though these may not strike you as big figures, they translate into lives saved and deaths avoided.'

Engaging staff in the safety agenda has played a key role in their successes.

He adds: 'Chief executives need to work with clinicians in partnership to deliver a safer healthcare service to patients. If safety came from management alone, it would be seen as a cynical activity.

'But if doctors promoted it without the support of managers, they wouldn't be taken seriously. I believe it has to be a symbolic and joint partnership between doctors and managers. In our trust safety was first raised by our medical director and director of improvement who came to me for support - and I think it's important it happened that way round.'


Useful links
To read the full interview, visit www.saferhealthcare.org.ukor www.health.org.uk

For more about the Safer Patients Initiative, click hereand here