Case study: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust leads best practice in staff and patient safety

Mental health trust rolls out Datix web-based software to pro-actively manage risk

About the trust

In January 2012, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health merged with Suffolk Mental Health Partnership to form Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). NSFT now provides a range of mental health, substance misuse and learning disability services across Norfolk and Suffolk. More than 4,200 staff are employed in a variety of clinical and non-clinical roles to deliver innovative and quality services to service users and their carers. This is also achieved through joint and partnership working with other statutory and non-statutory bodies.

The challenge

Prior to the merger, both mental health trusts had long histories of using Datix and had already switched to the latest web-based software initially to achieve increased and consistent levels of incident reporting. The next step was to manage incidents in an integrated way across the larger NHS organisation.

Our aim is to be recognised as a national leader in mental healthcare through the provision and co-ordination of high-quality, excellent and cost-effective services in a totally secure and safe environment

At the same time, the requirement to capture and manage risk across a rapidly-changing, more-complex environment became critical to supporting the trust’s service strategy, NSFT’s vision for providing services in Norfolk and Suffolk for the next four years.

Central to this core strategy is delivering evidence-based services with the focus on prevention and early detection. To achieve this, the trust decided to invest further in Datix to manage risk effectively and help make decisions about patient safety in a more pro-active way.

According to Neil Paull, deputy head of risk and security management at NSFT, said: “Our aim is to be recognised as a national leader in mental healthcare through the provision and co-ordination of high-quality, excellent and cost-effective services in a totally secure and safe environment.

“As separate trusts, both Norfolk and Suffolk enjoyed using Datix. Staff liked seeing the immediate results of entering an incident and being involved in the final outcomes. It made absolute sense to build on the positive foundations already laid down by Datix, taking the current infrastructure to the next level to strategically manage incidents and risk across the trust.”

The solution

Prior to purchasing Datix Risk Register in March 2013, staff manually distributed risk information across the organisation using spreadsheets. This made document version control difficult and information could be out of date. All risks are now recorded and managed centrally for the newly-created NSFT.

It made absolute sense to build on the positive foundations already laid down by Datix, taking the current infrastructure to the next level to strategically manage incidents and risk across the trust

Paull said: “Datix Risk Register has tightened up our risk management process, giving us a valuable audit trail that tracks the management and mitigation of risks from end to end. We know exactly what risks we face and who is accountable for each risk. The new solution has won board-level approval, securing wide-spread adoption of the system at all levels and significantly elevating the awareness of risk and the role of risk management in the trust.”

Using Datix Actions functionality, NSFT is able to communicate the importance of risk management, ensuring staff understand a consistent set of risk management processes and making sure that the right people are assigned to the right risks in a timely manner.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust relies on advanced reporting capabilities provided by Datix to underpin its risk management framework. Paull’s team works closely with patient safety managers to identify what are commonly known as ‘serious untoward incidents’ on a daily basis. Should a patient act aggressively towards a member of staff, for example, this is triggered as a potential risk to the organisation. If this type of incident reoccurs the trust has the appropriate evidence to call the police and take the matter forward without delay.

The Datix Dashboards module is proving particularly popular and, according to Paull, is ‘creating a real buzz’ with the trust’s governance team. They are taking advantage of the dynamic reporting environment to comply with increased industry regulation and demonstrate the trust’s performance against internal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) as well as the stringent standards set by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The results

Since introducing integrated web-based incident management across the organisation, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has benefitted from increased and stable levels of reporting. The organisation currently has less than 0.5% events open for comment and/or investigation, a significant improvement over the previous system.

Paull said: “What is more, the number of returns to the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) stands at an impressive 98%. This proves our reporting mechanisms and quality checks are well and truly on track.”

The latest investment has improved communication in terms of incident and risk management and has allowed the sharing of best practice across the organisation. Spread between two locations in Norfolk and Suffolk, the risk management team can log onto the system from either office and quickly focus on the priority issues of the day. In a mental health organisation where self-harm and violence are not uncommon, Datix enables NSFT to carry out meaningful inspections that highlight major risks.

Datix Risk Register has tightened up our risk management process, giving us a valuable audit trail that tracks the management and mitigation of risks from end to end

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has since agreed to become a reference site for potential new Datix customers. It also welcomes the opportunity to share experiences among the existing Datix community and actively participates in Datix’s regular user groups and online forums.

The future

Paull and his team aim to continually stretch the boundaries of the Datix system, consolidating reporting to currently seven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and tightening up reports to the CQC and NRLS. Next on the horizon is achieving 100% reporting on all incidents relating to violence against staff to NHS Protect in a bid to secure the safety of both staff and patients.

Paull concluded: “Datix gives us a powerful tool that drives the agenda for patient safety. We know exactly what the risks are and can do something positive to mitigate and minimise them. Datix incident and risk reporting make a valuable contribution to our corporate service strategy.

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