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Physio 13: Karen Middleton reminds physios of their duty to uphold safe patient care

15 October 2013 - 11:34am

Karen Middleton told the Physiotherapy 2013 conference in Birmingham that physios have a duty to speak out and break the ‘blame culture’ when they see poor practice in any health and social care setting.

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Karen Middleton: 'Clinicians have to be more open in talking to each other about professionalism.' Photo: Simon Hadley

The chief allied health professions officer at NHS England was speaking during a debate titled ‘Physiotherapy: post Francis’. She acknowledged that raising issues about poor care could be risky and individuals were understandably concerned about the consequences for themselves.

‘In no way am I pretending that it’s easy, but in a way we’ve lost it if we don’t, we have absolutely lost it.

‘And we have a moral and ethical duty, never mind a professional duty, to do this,’ she said.

Ms Middleton also said that clinicians have to be more open in talking to each about their professionalism: ‘We are all quite comfortable talking about clinical interventions, but I don’t think we are all quite as comfortable talking about conduct.’

During the ‘Q&A’ with CSP members in Birmingham the CSP tweeted so that members not at the conference could get involved in the debate too.

They also heard from CSP lay council member Catherine McLoughlin and Julia Scott, chief executive of the British Association and College of Occupational Therapists.

Challenging poor care

Responding to members’ questions about empowering students to improve care, Ms Middleton said students were among those involved in Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 trusts in England.

‘Sir Bruce was saying that some of the most insightful commentary came from students; they noticed things that the great and the good didn’t necessarily notice,’ she said.

Speaking from the conference floor, CSP chief executive Phil Gray argued that the society should put systems in place to support members who challenge poor care.

Physiotherapists are the most mobile profession in the average hospital, they know where NHS care is good or failing, he said.

But he added: ‘It’s easy to get locked into a situation where we are looking at [poor care] from a professional point of view and not look at the wider culture, because Francis also said there was something fundamentally wrong with Mid-Staffs management culture.’

It is also important for physiotherapists and the CSP to challenge politicians to be honest about the NHS’s finances and the effect on the quality of patient care, Mr Gray said.

A video of the session will be made available soon on the CSP website. 

Members can continue to debate the issues raised via the CSP’s iCSP networks.

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