Improving safety and reducing error in maternal health

24 August 2022

Speaking at the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare Clinical Excellence Commission speakers Professor Michael Nicholl and Dr Harvey Lander told delegates 262 babies are born each day in NSW and many of these births are associated with increasing numbers of known maternal complexities.

Ensuring the best outcomes for mothers and babies is a common goal across healthcare services. Resilience assessments, which challenge existing process models have been crucial to improving care at a system level, despite increasing complexities among mothers and babies, they said.

"While facing increasing complexity we need to improve safety in our care," Prof Nicholl said.

Our efforts to improve and make care safer are embedded in the CEC strategic plan and in our overall approach to strengthen patient safety systems at scale across NSW Health, Dr Lander shared.

Mature safety systems, improving safety capability and reducing preventable harm are system goals within the CEC Strategic Plan 2021-2024 to improve care.

Resilience assessments are a strengths-based approach and not a traditional review or investigation into individual cases and instead focus on identifying opportunities to improve systems of care. We have found this approach draws strong buy in from clinicians and executives alike, Prof Nicholl said.

Prof Nicholl said in conducting resilience assessments at maternity units around the state it was clear health staff were committed to offering patients high quality care.

"Nobody comes to work to do a bad job, but we need to look at what the system has in place to help staff do the best job they possibly can do. The resilience assessments look at the local context and help us point out to the executive where and how they could improve their safety maturity," he said.

"We need to focus more on how the system supports people to do a better job."

Dr Lander said as well as highlighting any significant system gaps, the resilience assessments also recognise areas that need improvement. In order to move towards a resilient safety system, the broader system needs to support local initiatives.

A range of resilience assessment resources are available to support teams looking to improve care in their services, including the Resilience Assessment in Maternity Services facilitation guide.