Improving the safety of patients in England

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5038 (Published 09 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5038
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health
  1. 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH, UK
  1. martin.mckee{at}lshtm.ac.uk

Berwick’s report should be required reading for everyone

The health service in England has been subjected to unprecedented scrutiny in recent years, with the Francis Report,1 Keogh Review,2 and now a report from a panel chaired by the American patient safety guru, Don Berwick.3 Although all deal with the same problem, the reports are quite different. Whereas Francis, a lawyer, produced a document stretching to more than 1700 pages, with 290 recommendations, Keogh and Berwick, both doctors, wrote concise analyses, with Berwick’s amounting to only 46 pages and 10 recommendations. For those unwilling to read even that, Berwick adds three letters, to senior government officials, to NHS staff, and to the people of England. Each emphasises four fundamental principles, that quality and safety must be placed above all else, that patients and carers must be empowered and heard, that staff should be developed and supported, and that there should be thorough and unequivocal transparency.

Unfortunately, despite its brevity, the immediate responses suggested that those commenting on it had failed to read it thoroughly. The health secretary claimed that it supported the government’s reforms, whereas patient groups believed that it ignored …

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