Gillian Bohm on the health quality and safety 'journey'

25 Jan 2011 | Health Quality & Safety Commission

Gillian says the “quality journey” New Zealand has taken has been rapid and exciting, and has shown that our health sector is able to adapt to new ways of working that have been proven in other countries.

‘It is only eight years since the Health Quality & Safety Commission had its first iteration in the form of EpiQual – the National Epidemiology and Quality Assurance Committee.

‘EpiQual was formed because the New Zealand Health and Disability Act 2000 had a requirement for the Minister to get advice about quality assurance matters. It ran for three years, before being reformed as the Quality Improvement Committee.

‘QIC had a number of members who were highly skilled in the quality and safety area and was funded for specific quality improvement projects in public hospitals.

‘After three years of making some good progress, the Government agreed that a more independent organisation would be the best iteration to accelerate work on health quality and safety. QIC was disbanded and most of its national programmes have been picked up by the Health Quality & Safety Commission.’

She says the Commission, which has a broader mandate than the preceding two organisations, works with clinicians and providers of health and disability services to improve quality and safety.

‘Its focus is on quality and safety across the whole health sector – primary care, secondary care, public and private hospitals and services.’

There have been a number of personal highlights for Gillian over the past decade.

‘EpiQual oversaw the setting up of the National Mortality Review Committees, which introduced, for the first time, the requirement for national reporting of the causes of unanticipated deaths. This meant we could learn from things that had gone wrong, and take steps to stop them happening again, to other people.

‘QIC had four national quality improvement programmes, all of which were important and have made a real difference.

‘The programmes were infection prevention and control, safer medication management, improving the patient journey – for example, faster, smoother admission of patients from the ED into the wards – and incident management.

‘QIC also released the first serious and sentinel events report, in 2007. This report now comes out every year, and is a good example of how we can learn from preventable events to continually improve the safety and quality of care provided by our health services.’

Gillian says she loves working in the quality and safety area.

‘I have a firm belief that we should do the very best for every patient and by doing that we also improve the working life of the doctors, nurses and others providing health services.

‘The spin-offs include fewer incidences of preventable harm to patients and more efficient care, meaning there is more resource to treat others.’

She believes awareness of the importance of quality and safety initiatives has greatly increased over the past 10 years.

‘This includes simple actions, like washing hands to prevent infection, or lowering the height of a hospital bed to prevent falls, as well as complex actions like introducing a standard medication chart for all hospitals or setting up processes to ensure the right person is delivering care.’

Last updated 19/01/2012