Digital Clinical Safety Strategy published by NHSX

NHSX has released a new Digital Clinical Safety Strategy. A joint work from all of NHSX, NHS Digital, and NHS England and NHS Improvement, the document is related to the new NHS Patient Safety Strategy, which was also published recently.

As well as sharing the strategy itself and its aims, the document also covers the strategic alignment with the overall safety strategy, how the delivery of the strategy should take place, and includes a call to action.

The two main aims of the new strategy are as follows: improve the safety of digital technologies in health and care, now and in the future; and to identify, and promote the use of, digital technologies as solutions to patient safety challenges.

In a foreword to the strategy, Dr Natasha Phillips, Chief Nursing Information Officer and Director of Patient Safety, explained: “As a nurse, I know very well the importance of delivering safe care and what it looks like when everyone contributes to a culture of safety. I also know that while we aim to provide the safest care every day, safety is not just a product of our individual actions. It is the result of the environments we work in, the tools we have at our disposal and the culture around us.”

She later added: “More than ever, it also requires a dedicated focus on digital technologies, which are increasingly integral to our health and care service. I have seen first hand the risk that digital can present, but I have also witnessed it transform pathways, support staff and save lives. Right now we have a responsibility to ensure that the digital technologies that surfaced with such vigour during the pandemic not only have a positive legacy, but are sustained and improved upon for patients, carers and families. We need to ensure the safety of digital health technologies, but beyond that, we need to employ these technologies as solutions to safety challenges.”

The new strategy, she said, would “provide a collaborative national direction” for the “enhanced safety of digital technologies”.

While the strategy contains 23 actions across the three areas of ‘Insight, Involvement and Improvement’, the publication also summarises the directions into five ‘national commitments’ as per below:

  • Collect information about digital clinical safety, including from the Learn from patient safety events (LFPSE) service and use it to improve system-wide learning.
  • Develop new digital clinical safety training materials and expand access to training across the health and care workforce.
  • Create a centralised source of digital clinical safety information, including optimised standards, guidelines and best practice blueprints.
  • Accelerate the adoption of digital technologies to record and track implanted medical devices through the Medical Devices Safety Programme.
  • Generate evidence for how digital technologies can be best applied to patient safety challenges.

On the subject of ‘introduction and strategic alignment’, the document states that “‘Digital clinical safety’ refers to the avoidance of harm to patients and staff as a result of technologies manufactured, implemented and used in the health service” and predicts that “the need for digital health technologies will continue to grow, compounding the need for a dedicated digital clinical safety strategy in the NHS to support the existing NHS Patient Safety Strategy.”

It also outlines that the ‘insight priorities’ are to learn from patient safety events, develop best practice insights, and continuous learning. While, ‘involvement priorities’ revolve around training, consolidating information, and raising the profile by promoting user groups and creating learning opportunities with research institutes. The ‘improvement priorities’ include evidence generation, supporting the Medical Device Safety Programme, and promoting innovation.

In the publication’s call to action, it rounds-up its position, sating that a “national effort is required to embed digital clinical safety across health and care” and that the strategy “focuses first on the role of national teams in setting the direction for improving the safety of technology in health and care and second on how that technology will be applied to safety challenges”. While it also stresses the need to instil a “culture of digital clinical safety across the NHS”, which it hopes, “starts with this strategy” as a “basis for a roadmap to take the NHS on its next steps to becoming a world leader in safe, digitally-enabled care.”

To view the strategy in full, click here.