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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

UK Health Services Could 'Learn Lessons' from Scotland's NHS

The health services of England, Wales and Northern Ireland could learn lessons from Scotland's NHS, according to a new report.

The Nuffield Trust found that Scotland had a unique system for improving the quality and safety of patient care.

It has benefited from sticking with the policy rather than "chopping and changing" every few years, it added.

Mark Dayan, the lead author of 'Learning from Scotland's NHS', said the report identified philosophies and approaches used in Scotland which could benefit the rest of the UK.

"Scotland's well thought-through system of improving patient safety and quality of care works by engaging frontline staff in the process, and importantly the country has stuck with that approach rather than chopping and changing every couple of years.

"Scotland has also worked on getting its healthcare services to co-operate for longer than the other nations of the UK. So we're urging healthcare leaders from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to think about what elements they might want to import from Scotland."

Among a series of findings, the health charity's report praised the emphasis placed on trusting clinical staff in Scotland, where it found they were encouraged to drive improvements in care. In contrast, it said there was a focus on targets in the health services in other parts of the UK, particularly in England, and managers were tasked with improving care quality.

South of the border, it found that the policy and institutions that govern healthcare was one of "constant change and reorientation".

Scotland's NHS, the SNP Government and the department that oversees it, Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), have maintained their current approach for nearly a decade.

The health charity's report also noted that better ways of working are tested on a small scale in Scotland, where they can be changed quickly if necessary, before being rolled out.

Unlike the rest of the UK, the system is overseen by a single organisation, HIS, which both monitors quality of care, and helps staff to improve it.

It also highlights pioneering initiatives, like the use of video links for outpatient care in remote areas, to tackle Scotland's geographical challenges.

Such systems should be considered in other parts of the UK facing similar issues, it was concluded.

Shona Robison, Scotland's health secretary, said she was proud that the achievements of Scotland's NHS were being recognised in the report.

She said:

"Our world-leading patient safety programme has led to 20,000 fewer than expected deaths, the lowest recorded levels of healthcare associated infections and significant improvement in sepsis and surgical mortality.

"We are also delivering the integration of health and social care, which is one of the most significant reforms since the establishment of the NHS, and which is helping improve service delivery.

"By bringing these services together we are ensuring people get the right care and support for their individual needs, and that staff across health and social care are equipped to work together to make full use of their shared skills and resources.

"Our ambitions for the NHS are founded on the twin approach of investment and reform, making the changes needed for future backed by record levels of investment and staffing."

Added Kenneth Gibson:

"In the ten years the SNP Government has been in office our consistency of approach, combined with hardworking and dedicated staff, have delivered marked improvements to Scotland's NHS, despite financial challenges and ever increasing demand.

"It is important that the other nations of the UK learn from Scotland's successes and share best practice. Indeed, we too should not rest on our laurels but look to what does and does not work elsewhere, to deliver the best possible outcome for patients."



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