A friend asked me to sum up my new job on one word.  I said Joyful.  So I thought I would share some of that joy by doing a series of blogs to share what we are learning and how things are progressing from a single idea to a national campaign for England, Sign up to Safety; [] and then I will share over the course of the campaign the highs and lows and anything in between.   First … lets explore the skills needed to run a campaign.

Point 1. A particular set of life skills

People often ask me why I left my clinical career.  I have never looked at it like that.  My training as a general nurse – at St Thomas’ Hospital, my first bedroom was in a room that overlooked Big Ben, it doesnt get much better than that in terms of a room with a view!  and then in paediatrics and paediatric intensive care at Guys Hospital – where if we are going to talk about views, you should be on a night shift working in Guys Tower – astonishingly beautiful.  However I digress as it clearly was not just about views! It was about people.  The people I nursed and the people I nursed alongside.  The training and the following 15 years experience of caring for sick children provided me with confidence, skills, knowledge, leadership abilities and life experience which enabled me to try new things and move into a new world of clinical risk and then patient safety. I use my clinical knowledge and skills every single day.  I use the things I learned about how to lead a team, how to work effectively as part of a multidisciplinary team, how to challenge decisions and how to make them every single day.  I learned how to be adaptive, flexible, nimble, and resilient all of which are essential qualities for someone leading a campaign.

Point 2. Belief in the cause

So if these are the foundations, what else is needed?  If you are going to run a campaign you have to believe in it.  You have to believe that what you are doing is going to make a difference and that the cause you are campaigning about matters.  Most importantly, it matters to you.  So I believe that we need a new campaign for patient safety.  I have the privalege of going out and about across the country and meet student nurses, junior doctors, physiotherapy teams, consultants, Chief Executives and many many more.  And amongst the 1.3 million staff that work in the NHS there are still many who are unaware of the scale and nature of the problem and crucially that there are some wonderful [and evidence based] ways in which the problems can be addressed.  The problem is not one of lack of tools or interventions to make care safer, the problem is one of implementation.  I know this is said often and I myself keep going on about this subject but it is as simple as that. However, it isnt simple.  Implementation, requires all sorts of conditions and actions in which it becomes a success.  This will the the subject of a number of blogs over the coming months.

Point 3. Knowing your area well

Which brings me on to content knowledge.  If you are going to put yourself out there and lead something, then my view is that you should know your stuff. Inside and out.  You will be questioned by everyone; from patients, public, staff, media alike.  You need to know things about your cause, and if you dont then you need to know instantly where the questioner can get the information from.  You have to be someone that has crediblity and respect for those that are making the effort to join and take part.  That is earned by knowing your stuff.  In the case of a patient safety campaign like Sign up to Safety the following is the ‘knowledge specification’:

  • understanding of patient safety, how things can go wrong, when they go wrong, why they go wrong, the science behind it, human factors, reslience engineering, improvement methods, the concept of high reliability, the solutions to reducing risk and harm and the evidence behind them
  • how to measure, analyse and interpret patient safety information
  • understanding of behavioural change, instrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the adoption curve, psychology of change and the difference between different type of change and methodologies for addressing them
  • implementation science, the understanding of what it takes to put theory in to practice, to embed new ways of working and sustain it
  • the art of campaigning, the use of movements and movement principles, social marketing, social media and communication in multiple different ways for multiple different audiences

Next time around I will describe what the campaign is and how it fits with the other national patient safety initiatives in England.