Why patient safety is everyone’s business

Jeni  Mwebaze, Head of Quality Assurance for Central and North west London NHS foundation Trust, has recently been awarded a bursary by Imperial College Health Partners to undertake a Masters in patient safety. She writes for us about her passion for patient safety, and how she plans to use her learning to bring a positive impact to her everyday role in North West London…

For 17 years, I have been trying to figure out what Master’s degree I wanted to do—yes that’s right, 17 years! You see mine was a complicated situation. My first degree was in Economics and Social administration and my first full time job was in the NHS healthcare governance (quality and safety) so – there is the complication straight away.

As with most first jobs, mine was a junior role in a governance department. I absolutely loved it, I understood it and I performed really well. In return, I was promoted  and over the years worked for different NHS organisations and progressed  to more senior roles. Currently, I work as Head of Quality Assurance for Central and North West London NHS foundation Trust.

I always knew I wanted to do a master’s degree. I also knew I wanted it to be relevant to what I did and loved doing. These two ideas were to be a problem for me and it has taken me 17 years to reconcile the two. You see, for a person without clinical background, there was not much choice of courses that related to quality and safety. This is possibly because traditionally, quality and safety in health care was considered something for people with clinical backgrounds or training.

In recent years however, healthcare professionals and policy makers have acknowledged the growing evidence that shows that quality and safety in healthcare is everyone’s business and not something that only clinicians can fix. In fact, healthcare organisations across the world are looking beyond clinicians and managers and are increasingly involving patients, service users and carers. It is therefore increasingly clear that the effectiveness of quality and safety programmes depend on joint efforts between clinicians, managers, patients/service users and carers.

Back to my journey. After 17 years of trying to find a suitable Master’s degree, I learned that it does exist! There is a MSc in Patient Safety! And guess what, it was not restricted to people with clinical backgrounds or training and it was focused on quality and safety in healthcare. This was perfect for me. I finally could add value of a further education to my work, I could get an even better understanding of quality improvement and can help tackle some of the challenges I encounter on a day to day basis.

But hold on, is it affordable?  It may be affordable for some people and maybe not for others. For me personally it was going to be a “financial stretch” but, thankfully,  I had discussed my plans with my line manager who knew that ICHP were offering bursaries and put me in touch. I was offered a 50% bursary in September 2017 and I accepted it.  I know by doing this Masters course I will not only be adding value to my knowledge, but will also add value to what I do. This will benefit the organisation I work for, but most importantly I will help improve the quality and safety of our service for the sake of our patients, service users and carers.