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World Patient Day 2020 – Safe health workers, Safe patients


In 2019, all 194 member states of the World Health Organization endorsed the establishment of World Patient Safety Day, to be marked annually on 17 September.

The aim of the day is to increase public awareness and engagement, enhance global understanding, and spur solidarity and action to promote patient safety.

Since the meeting at the 72nd World Health Assembly, few could have envisioned the challenges that we’d all face in 2020. COVID-19 has touched lives across the globe and thrust healthcare professionals, in particular, into the limelight.

The daily challenges faced by those on the frontline have been huge. Tragically, some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The aim of this year’s World Patient Safety Day is to highlight the importance of health worker safety to patient safety.

At St John and St Elizabeth, we fully endorse this message:

Safe health workers, Safe patients

The safety of our patients, visitors and staff is always our first priority, which is why we have been working closely with our enhanced Infection Prevention and Control Team and expert Consultant Microbiologists, who work with Public Health England, to ensure our Hospital is as safe as possible.

From strict social distancing measures to the wearing of correct PPE, regular COVID-19 tests for staff to increased hand sanitising and hygiene stations, we’ve implemented a range of measures to help us through these unsettling times.

In addition to appointing Infection Protection Control [IPC] ‘Super Users’, we’ve also worked with staff to provide better platforms for them to report any issues of concern to our ‘Speak Up Champions’.

Ahead of World Patient Safety Day, we caught up with Cherelyn Victor, Clinical Development Lead, and Jig Descallar, Deputy Ward Manager in the St Elizabeth Ward to discuss how we’ve adapted our protocols during COVID-19 and why communication with management is so important.

Cherelyn Victor, Clinical Development Lead

We know that staff and patient safety is paramount all year round. For us, particularly during COVID-19, this has meant a real focus on ensuring our team is fully up-to-date with the latest guidance from Public Health England.

Good communication has been key. All patients are swabbed when they come to the Hospital which allows us to dictate whether they are on a red or amber patient pathway. Our staff need to know what PPE they should be wearing for each patient because when you know you’re properly protected it means you can focus on your job; helping patients get better.

Staff here are tested for COVID-19 every two weeks by the Infection Prevention and Control team. We also press home the message that if they are feeling any symptoms they must report them immediately. We’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t had many cases at all. On the whole, we’ve been pretty healthy.

Being an IPC Super User is, ultimately, all about patient safety. Everything starts with me and the rest of the department follows. It’s about following all the instructions in place from hand hygiene to standard precautions to minimise the transmission of microorganisms.

Our ‘Speak Up Champions’ system also ensures that staff can report any concerns they might have about the day-to-day running of the Hospital. We have an open-door policy and actively encourage people to speak up. Staff don’t hold back. If they see a problem that needs addressing or our high standards aren’t being met they will talk to us. We escalate all issues and look for a swift resolution, all the more so if it’s related to staff or patient safety.

I’m incredibly proud of the way the Hospital and my team have handled everything this year. It’s been a challenging time for all our staff but they’ve all been brilliant and really pulled together as a team.

Jig Descallar, Deputy Ward Manager in the St Elizabeth Ward

At the start of the pandemic, everybody was a little taken aback and was just trying to process what was happening. Not just at our Hospital, but the whole country. Along the way, thanks to Public Health England and our Infection Prevention and Control team, the guidelines tightened and the patient pathways have become clearer.

The admission process has been adapted along the way. We’ve opened up St Joseph’s Ward for those patients who’ve not yet been screened for COVID and only if they are found to be COVID-free can they be admitted to the St Elizabeth Ward for surgery. Better guidelines and pathways have been vital.

We’ve also changed the Hospital’s layout and worked hard on staffing to accommodate those who are a little more at risk. We’ve taken sensible steps at every turn and I feel that management has genuinely tried their best to help us. We’re on the front lines, so it’s essential that we’re safe in order for us to help patients.

It’s not the biggest of hospitals and there are advantages to that. Genuinely, everybody knows each other and that means you have a direct line to top management. I think communication is very good here.

I’ve taken on the responsibility of being a Speak Up Champion. If people have concerns about anything at the Hospital and perhaps aren’t confident to express those to their line manager, they can come to me or one of my fellow Speak Up Champions and we can escalate things on their behalf. It’s a platform to talk about anything on your mind.

I put to one side my role as a ward manager and just try to listen to my colleagues. It’s not my role to be judgmental, it’s my job to listen. The position gives me a much needed different perspective on what is happening at the Hospital. In reality, it acts as a safety net. By and large, people can talk to any of he top management about their issues. It’s a really great thing about working here.

To learn more about the WHO’s World Patient Safety Day 2020, click here.