NHSE shares progress made against digital clinical safety commitments

NHS England has shared an update on the implementation of 2021’s Digital Clinical Safety Strategy, which aimed to improve the safety of digital technologies for health and to identify where technologies can be used as solutions to patient safety challenges, with the update focusing on how technology is being used to drive safer care; how insights about digital clinical safety are captured; and how the workforce is being trained to support safety in this area.

Looking at the strategy’s first commitment – to collect information about digital clinical safety and use it to improve system-wide learning – the update shares now NHSE has worked with the ‘learn from patient safety events’ team to ensure that information about digital clinical safety has been “accurately and thoroughly” captured, including adding three new fields specific to digital clinical safety. There is also a national process now in place to ensure that routinely collected patient safety data undergoes expert review, and digital safety teams within England have become accredited to issue national patient safety alerts.

The second commitment of the strategy was to develop new digital clinical safety training materials and expand access to training for the workforce; here, NHSE shares that a new training package covering the essentials of digital clinical safety has been launched, with over 1,100 staff members trained so far. In addition, an intermediate training package aimed at senior leaders and patient safety specialists has been developed, and a ‘train the trainer’ pilot has been commissioned with the intention of training 24 digital clinical safety professionals as trainers.

As the third commitment, the strategy set out a plan to create a centralised source of digital clinical safety information. NHSE points to the FutureNHS workspace which showcases blueprints to share experiences, approaches and best practice; to date, six blueprints have been published focusing on helping organisations take a user-centred design approach to implementing digital systems, with clinical leadership and involvement from the start.

The fourth commitment was to accelerate adoption of digital technologies to record and track implanted medical devices. The update highlights how NHSE has launched a Scan4Safety website with key messages from MHRA, NHSE and trusts already using Scan4Safety technology, offering a practical guide on how to get started.

Finally, the fifth commitment laid out in the strategy was to generate evidence for how digital technologies can be best applied to patient safety challenges. To support this, NHSE states that it has worked with existing data to improve risks associated with certain technologies; built analytic partnerships with organisations such as NHS Resolution to examine how data could reveal new insights about digital clinical safety; and leveraged integrated working across patient safety teams so that the topic features on upcoming national frameworks. In addition, the update notes that NHSE has developed a benefits case for major digital transformation programmes in frontline services in order to evaluate their impact on safety.

NHS Resolution has also worked with a large acute provider to analyse data and consider how technologies contributed to or helped mitigate risk of harm. As a result, a machine learning methodology has been developed that could be replicated across other organisations.

The update can be found in full here.