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Charles Vincent, Editor. (Pp 573; £47.50). London: BMJ Books, 2001. ISBN 0 7279 1392 1
The subtitle of this book, now in its second edition, indicates why it should be essential reading for all healthcare workers. At the heart of aspirations around delivering quality in health and healthcare systems must be the safety of the patient. Anything less than this focus means that the trust and confidence which patients and their families have in healthcare providers will be misplaced. “Do no harm”, the Hippocratic oath reminds us; “put patient safety first” is the message of Clinical Risk Management.
Edited by Charles Vincent, the UK's leading researcher in clinical risk management, the book's individual chapters on risk management issues in specific areas of medicine (for example, obstetrics, surgery, paediatrics, anaesthetics, general medicine, psychiatry) have a particular relevance to specialist healthcare workers in these arenas. They also, however, offer examples of good practice across a spectrum of risk management issues. Chapters on the principles and implementation of risk management and on creating safe conditions for patients and, indeed, for practitioners offer invaluable insights on making things better and safer.
So who should read this book? Firstly, it should be compulsory and early reading for medical, nursing, and therapy undergraduate students. Patient safety—clinical risk management—should not be reserved as a postgraduate subject. It is at the very heart of healthcare delivery. In educating future practitioners, the potential of what is technically possible through bioscience development must be tempered from the outset with an understanding of what is appropriate and how judgements about appropriateness are made through consultation, deliberation, and communication with patients and their families. An understanding of risk and how that is communicated and shared should not be an “add on” to the technical and vocational syllabus of specialties. It should be core teaching, introduced early in the undergraduate syllabus and built upon throughout undergraduate and postgraduate training. Concepts of clinical risk and patient safely should be ongoing elements of professional development that start when professional education begins and continue throughout a lifetime of professional growth and activity. Whole conferences devoted entirely to Clinical Risk Management seem to be increasingly out of place since surely this is a not a “topic” which is discrete and self-contained. When risk and patient safety issues are addressed each and every time a speaker talks about anything at all to do with health care, then the message of this book will finally have been understood. The business of health care is to do no harm and to therefore ensure that, in providing health and health care, patient safety is enhanced.