Don’t let the glut of pilot projects distract from patient safety

David Oliver is a Consultant Geriatrician in Berkshire and a visiting Professor in Medicine of Older People at City University, London. He is President Elect of the British Geriatrics Society. He recently wrote for the Health Service Journal blog on the subject of pilot studies, or what he calls “serial pilotitis”. A syndrome with a secondary complication leading to the long term disability: “projectitis”.

Commenting on Simon Stevens’ speech at the NHS Confederation conference, Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, says: “His call for a systematic approach to evaluating new models of care was welcome in a system that relies too heavily on small, fragmented and one-off pilots.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have visited dozens of acute hospitals and health economies to advise or to learn.

Everywhere I meet committed collaborative individuals striving to improve care for their local population – though reflexively resorting to protecting organisational or professional interests under cost, performance and regulatory pressures.

As a physician, I have also noticed an epidemic of a disease I call “serial pilotitis”. This syndrome has a secondary complication leading to long term disability: “parallel projectitis”.

At my work – high volume services in adult emergency care and services for frail older people across whole systems – pilotitis has spread like wildfire and is doing a great deal of damage.

Everyone understands that there are some existential crises facing our health systems; an exponential growth in the number of people living with multiple long term conditions, frailty, disability or dementia, often compounded by poor mental health, social vulnerability and repeated episodes of acute illness.

Read the full article on the Health Service Journal blog.

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