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Computer says no entry

The importance of having a process in place when systems stall is a lesson that healthcare is grappling with

21 Mar 2019 by John White

It is a familiar scene. A dash to the station to get that morning train to work. On arrival, one of the three available ticket turnstiles is not working, and an agitated queue of commuters has formed. The train departs in five minutes.

Having tapped my debit card to pass through the gates, I started to walk towards the platform before pausing with a nagging question in my head: ‘Has the station guard spotted the problem?’

I concluded that they were not aware, and noted that, if it was me stuck at the back of the long line that has now formed, I would be stressed (read fuming). So, I went back, flagged the problem, and scampered on. And yes, dear reader, I still made my train.

The scenario, it strikes me now, offers interesting parallels with working life in healthcare. In an environment focused on delivering patient care at a speed that matches demand, when problems and mistakes occur, it can be all too easy not to address the issue, never mind identify a way to remedy it.

Late last year for OT’s Clinical practice edition, we spoke to Dr Ali Poostchi, a senior registrar in the ophthalmology department at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, who shared frank views on the lessons he thinks the healthcare professions can learn.

“People will always make mistakes,” Dr Poostchi, explained. “They need systems in place to help mitigate those errors and provide safety nets, particularly in current optometry practice where you can have multiple individuals seeing a patient and performing investigations.”

“Focusing on the individual makes people nervous and it makes them less likely to admit their mistakes,” he shared.

The General Optical Council’s maximum financial penalty of £50,000 to Boots Opticians for failing to appropriately manage protected disclosures made about clinical concerns was a timely reminder last week of the importance of policies to deal with public interest disclosures, training for staff in recognising such disclosures and training in response to “whistleblowing” concerns.

In April’s OT, we speak to and profile the new-look AOP legal and regulatory team. Covering clinical negligence, professional discipline, and clinical and regulatory matters, as well as employment issues, the in-house team is the bedrock to turn to for advice whenever it is needed.

And while the team is there to spring into action to support members who are subject to an investigation, legal and regulatory director, Ella Franci, notes the role of the team must also be proactive: “Part of our role in protecting the profession is letting members know what practical steps they need to take to prevent them being subject to a complaint,” she said. 

It’s all in your April edition, arriving on doormats next weekend. Please do get in touch to let us know what you think.

Image credit: Getty

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