Professor Tim Briggs, the newly appointed National Director of Quality and Efficiency at NHS England, warns that up to 40% of hospitals are putting patients at risk of serious infections after surgery because of where beds are placed and that the variations between the services provided by hospitals are affecting safety and productivity. 

As reported in The Telegraph, Professor Briggs has noted that patients recovering from different operations are often put next to each other, increasing the risk of cross-contamination and has, therefore, called for the introduction of ring-fenced areas as a national priority. 

Infection rates are lower in hospitals with ring-fenced beds but 40% of hospitals do not have ring-fenced areas and these hospitals have “higher infection rates, and lower productively". 

Professor Briggs has also noted that changes need to be made to the way surgical teams are run. Too much responsibility is currently given to junior practitioners who are rotating too much. Surgeons are also not carrying out enough procedures. Instead, Professor Briggs has advised that we “need experienced theatre teams working with consultants". 

He aims to address the “unacceptable and unwanted variations in cost, complications and adverse outcomes” and will undertake a review clinical practice across 10 specialities in an attempt to reduce this variation. 

It is hoped that reducing the variation will not only improve patient safety but will also provide a better service and help save money in the future. 

He commented: “In light of the financial austerity the NHS faces, we have a duty to make sure that we reduce unwanted variation and complications, in order that our resources can provide patients with the high quality care they require.” 

Last week, Lord Carter’s report proposed that NHS hospitals in England could save £5 billion each year by 2019-2020. Lord Carter suggests that these savings could be made by improving safe and reducing wide variations. 

Georgina Blackwell, associate in the clinical negligence team, said: “It is clear from Professor Briggs’ findings that more needs to be done to ensure this variation between hospitals is addressed – both to save money and to ensure that patients receive a high standard of care.”