HOSPITAL staff in north Cumbria are being encouraged to speak up to prevent errors that could put patients at risk.

The Stop The Line initiative - inspired by measures used by car maker Toyota to prevent errors - is just one of a number of measures that have been introduced to improve safety.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust has been working to reduce serious incidents at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital for some time.

It follows a high number of historic never events and some high-profile errors that were highlighted at inquests into patient deaths.

This has seen a reduction in recent years, but bosses say that safety remains a priority.

Rod Harpin, trust medical director, and consultant anaesthetist Ruth O’Dowd set out some of the work in detail during a presentation at the latest the North Cumbria Health and Care System Leadership Board meeting.

They explained that there is now a collective of people working on this as a primary concern, rolling out initiatives like Stop The Line - which empowers staff to speak up about potential errors, resulting in the whole team pausing and reviewing a procedure.

Dr Harpin said: “This is about changing culture. The concept came from Toyota and we are very keen to learn from other industries.

“It is about every individual and member of our team feeling able to speak up if they see a potential safety incident happening.

“There are teams who have identified potential harm and prevented it.

“It’s quite well embedded in the surgical division at the Cumberland Infirmary and I’m really pleased that we were asked to roll it out across the trust.”

Dr O’Dowd added: “Employees have to feel safe to report an incident. It’s really important there’s no adverse consequences for a member of staff who speaks up.”

Dr Harpin said it was key that everyone, from the board to porters and cleaning staff, supported these initiatives.

He added: “We think that the way of achieving this is to have openness and transparency, promoting a positive safety culture and a no blame culture,” said Dr Harpin. “Everybody needs to be involved.”

He added that they would also include family members if so-called “human factors” - such as human errors that could have been prevented - were found to be an aspect.

The pair confirmed that hundreds of staff have already completed extra training, with more in-depth sessions tailored to different departments also being rolled out.

“We’ve started human factors training locally,” said Dr Harpin.

“We are now doing bespoke training for whole areas. For example the endoscopy team are going for a whole day of training based on one incident.”

Dr O’Dowd also flagged up successful education campaigns, such a recent initiative to raise awareness of the signs of sepsis among NHS staff and the public.