Published: 04/03/2004, Volume II4, No. 5895 Page 8 9

Patient safety initiatives too often leave out patient input, distorting effectiveness and results, delegates to the inaugural conference of the National Patient Safety Agency were told last week.

Ian Kramer, a patient affiliate of the Modernisation Agency's clinical governance support team, told the conference that keeping patients better informed about their treatment and asking for feedback could play a key role in preventing accidents and near misses. He said: 'We see things that you do not see.'

Mr Kramer gave an example from personal experience where a nurse who regularly took his blood without wearing gloves was being assessed by senior colleague. 'It was the first time she had gloved up. She would have got a tick on the box. [Yet] if the person with the clipboard had asked me, I could have told them about this [being a one-off].'

He added: 'Very often the patient is the best person to ask.

What patient choice is going to do, I hope, is to revolutionise hospitals into places where patients are heard. I have a broad view of patient choice; choice is about patients being in the driving seat.'

Mr Kramer also described how a patient was left with a permanently damaged thumb after accident and emergency staff failed to inform him that he should return to the hospital if he suffered any further pain from an injury that had been bandaged.

He argued: 'One thing that makes hospitals dangerous for patients is that they're not designed for patients. They're not places of healing, but designed for doctors and clinicians to do their job with maximum efficiency.'

His comments on patient involvement were backed by University Hospital Birmingham trust chief executive Mark Britnell. He told delegates that UHB, one of the first wave of foundation trusts, was 'already up to 40,000 members [and] they will hold my managers and myself to account for our performance'.

'I suspect we'll get to 100,000 members by the summer, which is 10 per cent of the population of Birmingham.'

He said public membership, which is now above 43,000, has been built through campaigning.

However, the majority consists of patients who have not opted out from membership.

NPSA in brief

NPSA joint chief executive Susan Williams defended the role of national bodies in determining policy on areas such as safety after the conference was told that the NPSA would not be exempt from an 'arm's-length bodies review'.Ms Williams said: 'It is absolutely right that our work is tested for value for money and we in turn have the opportunity to promote patient safety in the work of other bodies.'

A nationwide crash call number,2222, has been launched by the NPSA.Dr David Gabbott of the Resuscitation Council (UK) said: 'It makes sense that a standard crash call number should be engrained in the minds of all doctors and nurses.'

NPSA guidance on implementing 'a systemwide, design-led approach to tackling patient safety in the NHS'was launched at the conference by junior health minister Lord Warner.The booklet was written in conjunction with the Design Council and outlines key areas for improvement.