Skip to main content

Learning the lessons to deliver safe patient care

Patient safety lies at the heart of our work as chiropractors. Our role is to deliver improved outcomes for our patients.  However, a critical part of the overall patient experience is ensuring we work with and treat patients safely.

The consequences of failing to provide safe treatment are great, potentially impacting a patient’s health and wellbeing as well as undermining people’s confidence in the chiropractic profession. 

Our professional responsibilities are outlined in the GCC Code, which states that registrants must use professional judgement to recognise and work within the limits of their own knowledge, skills and competence to ensure patient safety.

As trusted healthcare professionals, our responsibilities must also extend to identifying and learning from any mistakes or incidents that could have an impact on the safe treatment of a patient.

The value of a patient safety incident reporting system

The recent GCC registrant survey provides insights into the use of patient safety incident reporting systems across chiropractic practices. According to the research, more than half of registrants (58%) working in clinical practice report that their workplace has a patient safety incident reporting system in place.

The importance and benefits of a patient safety reporting system should not be underestimated. These systems enable practices to document and keep a record of any errors or incidents which may have occurred during a patient’s treatment. This information provides a valuable learning opportunity for clinicians to enhance patient care and prevent a similar situation in the future.

Sharing information and discussing cases with colleagues

Patient safety reports have the potential to deliver positive change to chiropractic practices, particularly if information is shared and discussed with colleagues. For example, it’s extremely useful to hold monthly meetings to talk through specific cases. This is an opportunity to identify what happened and what can be learnt.

I am part of a regional professional development group and one of our first topics of discussion is always around incidents and patient safety. We often review the GCC’s Fitness to Practise cases to get an understanding of how an incident may have happened and what steps to take in our own practices to mitigate such potential risks.

Considering and working through the ‘what if’ scenarios really help should an incident occur. These are important conversations that support our own professional development as chiropractors.

Improved accountability

Having a patient safety incident reporting system in place supports accountability in the workplace. Some chiropractors may be concerned about admitting their mistakes. However, to learn and improve we must be accountable for our actions. This benefits the whole profession.

In addition, having records available that outline a specific incident and what actions took place could prove useful if a complaint is made against you or your practice.

Finding the right incident reporting system

The GCC registrant survey revealed that 23% of chiropractic practices did not have a patient safety incident reporting system in place. From my experience, time is often the primary factor behind this decision with some practices concerned that these systems are difficult to implement.

In fact, it really doesn’t have to be that hard. The research highlights the systems used by practices, which include a profession-based system such as the Chiropractic Patient Incident Reporting and Learning System (CPiRLS) through the Royal College of Chiropractors, to clinical systems, accident and incident books, and patient complaint procedures. For smaller practices, patient safety incidents could just as easily be recorded in an incident book.

The Chiropractic Patient Incident Reporting and Learning System (CPiRLS) enables chiropractors to list an incident as it happened and the system will rate it as high, moderate or low risk. Records are anonymous but it provides a good pool of information to look back and see what other chiropractors have done in practice.

While the way patient safety incidents are recorded may vary from practice to practice, the most important thing is to have a system in place which helps us meet our responsibilities to deliver safe patient care.

Elisabeth Angier is a chiropractor based in the Wye Valley, Herefordshire. She is Chair of the Chiropractic Research Council, a charitable organisation concerned with advancing chiropractic research for the benefit of patients and works with the GCC to ensure Fitness to Practise of overseas chiropractors wishing to practice in the UK. Elisabeth is also a GCC Visiting Education Assessor, and is a Clinic Supervisor at the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic, University of South Wales.

Read our latest article on the value of incident reporting to improve patient safety 


No comments have been posted yet.

Post a new comment