In the time it takes you to read this, one or more incidents may have harmed or even killed patients being cared for in your hospital. NHS boards should signal their commitment to addressing the problem by joining the Patient Safety First campaign

The Patient Safety First campaign was developed by chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson and NHS South West chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers to make the safety of patients everyone's priority.

NHS organisations can only sign up to the campaign if their chief executive and board publicly pledge to introduce at least two of the campaign's patient safety interventions - one of which must be leadership for safety.

Chief executives must show they are committed to leading the campaign locally with a written pledge to all staff in their trust. Trusts must also sign up to training in the global trigger tool as the initial mechanism for audit and evaluation of current clinical harm. A further request is that trusts post their results, demonstrating the changes that have taken place.

Continuous improvement

The goal is to ensure there is a leadership culture at board level that will promote quality and patient safety and provide an environment where continuous improvement becomes routine throughout the organisation.

The campaign asks the leadership of participating organisations to begin by focusing on at least the following six actions to improve quality and reduce harm:

  • develop explicit strategic priorities and goals;

  • provide demonstrable leadership;

  • ensure executive accountability;

  • establish and monitor explicit system-level measures;

  • monitor progress and drive execution of plans;

  • build patient safety and improvement knowledge and capability.

Rise to the challenge

More than 260 NHS organisations have signed up to the campaign, including 78 per cent of all acute trusts. Although the initial set of interventions focuses on the needs of the acute sector, there have been increasing sign-ups from mental health, ambulance and primary care trusts.

So will we step up to the challenge?Will we really use the energy and commitment of our staff to reduce the numbers of patients suffering harm? Do we have a board that has not just the ambition but the will and courage to see through the necessary changes? Will we really use the leadership position that we occupy to demand a reduction in avoidable harm and death?And if not, why not?

For more information on the campaign, visit www.patientsafetyfirst.nhs.uk