The board has scored an “exceptional” 4.0 on a five-point scale set by the American-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), in conjunction with Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
For its assessments, IHI sets challenging objectives which require boards to demonstrate sustained improvements in patient care.
IHI found that by embracing the aims of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) and through the work and commitment of its frontline teams, NHS Highland achieved many examples of improved patient care and demonstrated that these changes led to clear results.
Maryanne Gillies, NHS Highland’s SPSP manager, explained: “Scotland is the first country in the world to implement a national patient safety programme across the whole healthcare system. This is being achieved by using evidence-based tools and techniques to improve the reliability and safety of everyday healthcare systems and processes.
“This programme is designed to help our hard-working NHS staff to minimise any unintentional harm caused during clinical care.
“It's not about employing more staff or buying more equipment but about enabling frontline staff to ensure that every single process they need to carry out to care for a patient is carried out reliably every single time.
“We give frontline staff the permission to make changes to the way they work with improvements being tested at ward level.
“Real-time data is gathered unit-by-unit by the staff caring directly for patients and displayed on Quality Improvement Boards throughout the four acute hospital sites in Highland.”
Among the examples of improved patient care demonstrated by NHS Highland were:
· The Critical Care team in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, achieved 697 days between ventilator associated pneumonias, far surpassing the ambitious national target of 300 days. This team also achieved 596 days between central line infections, surpassing the national target of 300 days.
· A ‘surgical pause’, similar to the checklist carried out by an airline pilot prior to take-off, is now completed in the operating theatre for every patient every time to act as a final checklist to reduce complications in the theatre.
· All members of the NHS Highland’s executive team join hospital managers on a weekly basis to visit clinical areas to promote patient safety activity and to understand issue and concerns that frontline staff may have.
Commenting on NHS Highland’s 4.0 rating, Jason Leith, Clinical Director of Quality at the Scottish Government Health Directorates, tweeted, “It’s a five-point scale we use to measure progress of our safety work. 4 is exceptional.”
And Dr Andrew Longmate, Scottish Government Clinical Lead for Safety, said of the rating: “It is an absolutely fantastic achievement.”
Elaine Mead, NHS Highland’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Healthcare relies on a range of complex interactions between people, skills, technologies and drugs. Sometimes things can and do go wrong. That is why we work hard to ensure that NHS Highland continuously strives to drive up standards and initiatives like the Scottish Patient Safety Programme are key to this work.”
“We were recently justifiably criticised for having dropped our infection control standards at Raigmore and have assured that we will continue to work very hard on improving those standards. Our 4.0 award, which was achieved after rigorous assessment, underlines the high priority we place on patient safety and I am extremely proud of everyone involved in achieving this remarkable result.”
The only other Scottish health board to achieve a 4.0 rating is NHS Tayside.