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Focus on patient safety, not scapegoats

Media Statement

From the president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners,

Dr Helen Rodenburg

3 July 2003

Focus on patient safety, not finding and punishing scapegoats

New Zealand’s GPs are ready to back the National Cervical Screening Programme as recommended by eminent pathologist Dr Euphemia McGoogan, but it needs to be properly funded and focused, believes College of GPs president Dr Helen Rodenburg.

She was responding to the release of the McGoogan Report that noted (11c) only limited measures are being implemented to guarantee high coverage and attendance. Dr McGoogan identified that most smears are taken in general practice yet GPs are not contracted to undertake cervical screening at present.

“It is to their credit that participation is generally high,” she said.

Dr Rodenburg said GPs generally felt the programme should be focused on patient safety and the welfare of the women involved, and “about gathering adequate information that is used to improve current practice rather than to point the finger,” she said.

Given adequate funding, an appropriate system could be quickly put in place to cover other points mentioned by Dr McGoogan such as invitations to participate, proper education and guidance on informed consent, and ensuring time was available during regular consultations to discuss the cervical screening programme.

The College focuses around trust and support – encouraging continuous quality improvement by producing resources that assist general practices identify then work through any system or process errors.

“Our focus is always on quality,” Dr Rodenburg said.

She also welcomed the publication this week of Snakes and Ladders: The pursuit of a Safety Culture in New Zealand Public Hospitals, by Dr Peter Roberts, that has been jointly published by Victoria University’s Institute of Public Policy Studies and Health Services Research Centre. A specialist intensive care and consultant physician at Wellington Hospital since 1983, Dr Roberts based the book on his thesis for a Masters in Public Policy that won him the inaugural Holmes Prize for Public Policy Research in 2002.

Dr Roberts advocates “enhancing human performance, rather than trying to manage human error, promises more scope for reducing harm to hospital patients.”

Dr Rodenburg, president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners said the whole New Zealand society tends to react into the Name, Blame, Shame culture.

“We should be focusing on patient safety, on improvement, not simply on finding and punishing scapegoats.”


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