Blog posts

Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety

By Dr Kelsey Flott, Centre Manager, NHLR Imperial PSTRC

In 2016 Imperial College London, in partnership with the UK Department of Health, launched the first Ministerial Summit for Patient Safety. The inaugural Summit attracted considerable attention with speeches from UK Health Secretary Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt and the former Director of the WHO Margaret Chan who initiated a worldwide Patient Safety Day.

Two years on and the Summit has achieved enormous international success. It has been held in 3 countries – the UK, Germany and Japan – and in its third iteration attracted delegates from over 40 countries.

During the most recent Patient Safety Ministerial summit in Tokyo, Japan on May 13-14th, ministers renewed their commitment to patient safety, while other expressed a newly found appreciation for the importance of this topic within their health systems. Further to the ministerial endorsements for safer care, global experts in patient safety also presented their work and demonstrated the emerging priorities for safety.

Professor Darzi began the expert portion of the Summit with a compelling articulation of the hospital of patient safety and the direction of travel for future improvements. His talk captured the fundamentals of patient safety that form the foundation of the NIHR Imperial Translational Research Centre (PSTRC). However, it went further to indicate the importance of foreshadowing upcoming threats to patient safety and preventing them as soon as possible.

One such threat that Professor Darzi highlighted was that of cyber security. As patients care records and personal data are increasingly stored in electronic and even cloud-based systems, the role of cyber security to patients is becoming increasingly paramount. Following high-profile failings of cyber security in the NHS last year, it was important to note the relevance of this area to a global patient safety audience. Furthermore, the PSTRC plans to stem the tide of this looming thread and work closely with colleagues in IT and digital health to understand the patient harm caused by cyber security failings and how to prevent it. (more…)

A young person’s perspective on being involved in a mental health research project

By Katy Pickles

My name is Katy Pickles and I’m currently part of the Young Persons Advisory Group (YPAG) for Imperial College London’s social media, other technologies and mental health research, which is focused on how young people might use social media whilst suffering with a mental health issue. Having used social media whilst in treatment for mental illness, I have found myself curious about the results of research such as this. I have been receiving information and helping shape the project for just over a month now and look forward to the next few months whilst I follow the progress that is made.

To give you a little further insight into the research, it can be outlined as such: The acceptability of using wearables, social media and other technologies in helping to detect deteriorating (worsening) mental health in young adults.

Firstly, it is clear that Imperial College are looking into the detection of changes in mental health using wearables, social media and other technologies rather than the impact that these things may directly have on mental health. Initially, I had to get myself over this hurdle as recent media coverage has been heavily focused on the direct impact that social media has on its users rather than what these digital platforms are doing to detect user health. Secondly, Imperial College are clearly looking at a very broad spectrum of technology and only a small group of users (in this case – young people!). I have come to understand that in order to generate an achievable research topic, questions must allow potential for scope but also have a clear target to aim at.

Previously, I have been a member of a separate YPAG at The McPin Foundation where I met many likeminded young people to share my ideas about mental health with. I heard about Imperial’s research through my work with McPin and previous to this through my work with B-eat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity. (more…)

Part II, The next five years

Let me start by describing an average episode of care in 2017. John is in his mid-50’s, a smoker (average 10 cigarettes a day), drinks regularly (around 2 pints of beer or 2 medium glasses of wine on his heaviest drinking day) and does not exercise frequently. He is overweight and has a family history of heart disease. John booked an appointment with his local GP because he had been having worsening chest pains over the previous five weeks. His GP referred him to the local rapid access chest pain clinic, where he had tests such as an ECG. The tests did not show any abnormalities and John was sent back to his GP with a note asking his doctors to continue monitoring him in case his symptoms worsened. His GP received the summary but did not schedule a follow-up appointment with John because the practice was short-staffed that day. (more…)

Part I, The last five years.

by Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham

Let me start with a personal story. I am a surgeon by training. Colleagues used to call me ‘robo-doc’ because of my interest in robotic keyhole surgery and because I helped to champion its use during a time when a surgeon’s reputation was measured by the size of his incisions. My journey into the academic study of patient safety happened naturally, aided by my interactions with patients and their carers. In fact, it was the quality of care that first drew me in.

I remember the first 24 hours after my very first keyhole surgery as if it was last week. I remember so vividly because never have I witnessed such drastic differences in patient outcomes as a result of a singular change in the way care was delivered. Almost immediately the patient was able to eat, walk without any assistance and, most importantly, with very little pain. We had dared to explore something different when the norm was not good enough. This was the start of my determination to do better. (more…)

May the force be with you: The role of the workforce in patient safety

By Professor Anne Marie Rafferty

Let’s face it ‘workforce’ is not the sexiest of subjects. The combination of work + force suggests something hard and difficult is upon us. Yet everything in healthcare depends upon it. Patient safety can all too easily be captured by the technical and sexy subjects of Artificial Intelligence: wearables, promising techy short cuts to wicked, intractable solutions. We invest hope and hype in these and other techy totems. But the unalloyed truth is that safety is hard work principally because it is enabled by human interaction and practices, practices which are embodied, literally in the human frame and behaviours. Here at the Centre, we are keen to drop some depth charges into the murky waters of the workforce and its relationship with patient safety. Fortunately, we are not starting with a blank slate. (more…)

Typical advice about how to critically think about and appraise papers/literature

by Nisha Shah

As a junior researcher in a well-known academic centre, I often have to review the literature to: familiarise myself with a topic area; search the literature to support the writing of a paper; and, critically evaluate previous literature for quality and find gaps in a research area.

The latter is often the most difficult: critiquing others’ work, especially if it’s a prominent academician from a big academic institution, can be daunting as I am still trying to develop my analytical abilities. So where do you begin to know where to start critically evaluating literature?


What I learned working in mental health

by Christian Ramtale

“When our bodies are sick and people extend their sympathy, bring us soup, offer up solutions. When our minds are sick, people tend to shy away from you, be afraid, or call you outright crazy.” – Anna Akana.

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

Due to increased awareness of the role mental health plays in our lives, there is a greater acceptance that mental health is of equal importance to physical health. This has enabled patient safety as a discipline to examine previously unexplored areas in mental health.


One year on

by Kelsey Flott & Erik Mayer

A year on from the publication of NRLS Research and Development, building an improved model for learning from incidents has been a top priority across the Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC) and the Big Data and Analytical Unit (BDAU). Researchers across our centres have been working in close collaboration with leaders at Imperial College Healthcare Trust (ICHT) to design evidence-based, practical solutions that work in the NHS.