An offer of partnership – How the new Improvement Cymru Strategy will support patient safety by Iain Roberts, Head of Programmes, Improvement Cymru

In August, I had the satisfying feeling of peeling the plastic cover off a new phone as my company upgraded me.  The new phone is terrific and has some nice features, a better camera, a longer lasting battery and a couple of new apps.  On the face of it, not too much different, but that could be down to me as the operator.  I am sure that underneath the screen that the technology is superior and more advanced.

What has a new phone to do with Patient Safety and the new Improvement Cymru Strategy to support Health Boards with their work?

A central component of healthcare is a continual drive to improve the reliability and safety of services.  I could mention here a long list of influential figureheads and writers, safety organisations, policy documents and publications.

In my NHS career every healthcare professional I have worked with has dedicated their entire working life to ensuring the best outcomes for patients.  We have seen this so clearly during the pandemic.  No wonder the general public stood outside their front doors and applauded the NHS.

Maintaining high reliability in healthcare is dependent on so many factors.  Staff numbers, facilities, skills and training, demand, human factors.  I could go on. 

As we start to move out of the pandemic we have so much work to do to help patients and staff.

In the past Improvement Cymru would have sought to support improvement work via a range of programmes focussed on the most prevalent harms or concerns in the system. We still provide nationally commissioned support in key areas, but our new strategy introduces a shift to a new way of working too, recognising what has been learnt during the pandemic. A bit like my new phone, we’re introducing new ways of doing things but the focus remains the same – challenging the most common harms and supporting NHS Wales with their improvements.

Every health board has well established patient safety teams and governance to support the best possible healthcare.  Our strategy is to work with organisations and their safety structures to help them explore opportunities to become even stronger.  Creating that link between Executive awareness of how safe the system is now and moving further towards a culture of preventing future harms rather than looking in the rear view mirror.

The pandemic has affected every healthcare system in the world.  Every health care system is also focussed on patient safety.  We are committed to helping NHS Wales to learn with colleagues from across the world, so that we can enhance our knowledge, explore innovations, and compliment and strengthen the existing structures that we have.  Whether it is learning from industry, experts from the UK or the rest of the world.  It is these fundamental foundations in our organisations that build safety is where we will be offering our support.

As you remove the plastic cover off the screen of the Improvement Cymru new strategy you’ll see things you recognise and some new elements.  It is an offer of partnership, support to our staff and peers, a chance to build on the innovations and learning through the pandemic and it is a strategy that in time will make a difference to staff and patients.  We will be learning our way forward with you.

Our new strategy will be launched on 17 September, World Patient Safety Day. Follow our channels for the latest updates.