Improvement, leadership and compassion central themes at quality and safety conference

28 July 2022

The BMJ International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare launched on Sunday July 24, 2022, in Sydney after a 2-year pandemic hiatus.

Supported by Strategic Host Partner the Clinical Excellence Commission the conference saw local and international safety and improvement leaders drawn together to refocus on the future of quality improvements in healthcare.

Themed New Horizons: quality improvement shaping the future, the conference heard the pressures on health workers through the pandemic had been immense and felt in all regions of the globe. However, this challenging environment had also demonstrated dynamic healthcare improvement at scale as hospitals, individuals and systems worked at pace to respond to new safety concerns, challenges and patient needs.

Opening the conference, NSW Health Secretary Susan Pearce said patient safety had never been more important than it was right now, and staff safety and wellbeing needed to be considered alongside this as systems developed and moved forward now the early stages of the pandemic had passed.

"It's important as we look to the future and the safety and quality of our health system that consumers are the centre of everything," Ms Pearce said.

"Despite the pressures of these past few years there is a future ahead and it's important for us all to keep our focus on it."

Institute for Healthcare Improvement President and CEO Dr Kedar Mate welcomed guests and said restoring trust, equity and kindness in healthcare was crucial.

"Our work and collaboration with our patients are even more important than the most jaw-dropping innovation," Dr Mate said.

"As I reflect on the contribution of the global quality movement, we are not only making care safer but putting care back in healthcare."

Keynote address Leadership Lessons Learnt Through Crisis looked at what health leaders such as New Zealand Ministry of Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield, Victorian Department of Health Secretary Euan Wallace, Sydney Local Health District CE Teresa Anderson and Mid North Coast Local Health District CE Stewart Dowrick had taken away from the rolling disasters felt in the community and health since late 2019 while still keeping community, patient and staff safety at the centre of everything that was being done.

After presentations from multiple healthcare fields including data, infection prevention and control, clinical documentation and quality improvement science the conference closed with a presentation by Compassion Revolution author Mary Freer.

Ms Freer acknowledged the real challenges facing staff working in hospitals around the world and urged attendees to think about making compassion the next critical step in healthcare.

"There is a deepening realisation we are never going back to the way things were," Ms Freer said.

"Things weren't perfect before and we can build something much better, but compassion needs to be our next critical step.

"We are looking to establish a sensitivity to distress in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it.

"Compassion is about someone else but it's also about you."

A range of presentations from the conference are available online.