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North East healthcare initiative improving patient safety

ThinkSAFE is a new free-to-use service providing support to patients and their families to work with clinicians and healthcare professionals to improve the safety of patients in hospital.

Originally developed as part of a programme of research funded by the National Institute of Health Research, and set up thanks to £110,000 funding from the Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), the service has already generated national interest from the Department of Health and recently won a Patient Experience Network national award.

The project aims to help patients and their families feel more involved in their care, and to ensure that their concerns are listened to and their needs are met. It includes a patient safety video; a patient-held logbook with advice information including medication checklists and a care diary; a series of sessions known as “talk time” at key time points throughout the treatment to flag up any concerns and questions; and an educational session for staff.

Healthcare professionals from the North East recently gathered in the heart of Newcastle at The Core, the city’s new flagship science and technology centre, for the ThinkSAFE official launch event.

Guest speakers at the event included 61-year-old Andy Bell, from Gateshead. Andy has already had first-hand experience of ThinkSAFE after being given the ThinkSAFE Healthcare Logbook at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s orthopaedic department in the lead up to having knee replacement surgery.

He said: “I thought it was a very good idea and found it helpful and straightforward to use. I filled it in meticulously, as I could see how it could benefit me and the medical team.

Having the booklet helped me to be much more aware. It explains what would happen during the procedure and what to expect after. Previously you felt like you were in the dark about a lot of it. With the booklet you feel as if you’re part of the process and part of the team. There’s the doctor, the nurse and you.

From a personal point of view I think that if people take this on board, they are far more likely to get better, to heal and to get out of hospital quickly. I went in for my surgery on the Wednesday, had a knee replacement and was able to go back home on the Friday. Apparently it’s really unusual to get to that point so quickly. But using the ThinkSAFE booklet convinced me that I’d feel better and I did. Also, now if I go to my GP I’ve got this handy reference point listing all the drugs I have to take. It’s something categorical to look at.

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Andy has a further operation yet to come and says he will continue to use ThinkSAFE next time around.

Project manager Yasmin Khan, from the Institute of Health & Society at Newcastle University, said: “ThinkSAFE has the potential to support a fundamental shift in the way patients and staff work together to deliver improved patient experience and safety across whole organisations. Research shows that involved and informed patients can experience more satisfying and safer healthcare. Patients and staff are motivated by ThinkSAFE to engage with patient safety behaviours.  Patients reported feeling ‘empowered’ and said that being more involved in their care helped them to be more confident and willing to directly engage with staff about their safety.

She added: “Previous approaches to patient safety focused on just the patient and required them to ‘speak up’ and ‘challenge’ staff if they had concerns. Our research found that this often served to inadvertently make patients uncomfortable about reporting concerns, for fear of being labelled difficult or demanding, and could make staff feel scrutinised and demoralised.  This created tensions that can damage the trusting relationship between patients and their caregivers.  ThinkSAFE on the other hand, places importance on a collaborative approach.

Tony Roberts, AHSN NENC interim programme lead for the Patient Safety Collaborative, said: “We are immensely proud that the AHSN has been able to fund the ThinkSAFE project as part of the Patient Safety Collaborative work programme here in the North East and North Cumbria. The project is helping to transform services for patients across our region. Collaborative working is key to the success of these projects, and we are delighted with the spread of organisations involved and the clear commitment to partnership working to address patient safety.

Five local NHS Trusts have been participating in the 12-month implementation project, which began in February 2015: Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; City Hospital Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust; Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust; and South Tees NHS Foundation Trust.

Yasmin said: “All five Trusts found it immensely valuable to have collaborative meetings during the project where they could share learning and challenges.

The project has culminated in the development of a co-produced implementation package that includes a detailed user-guide and implementation toolkit, which are now freely accessible to NHS Trusts and patients via a dedicated website.

For more information, free resources, or to watch the ThinkSAFE video, visit: