Andy Carr guest blog – a year in the life of a Clinical Safety Officer and what lies ahead

Andy Carr is a Clinical Safety Officer, Clinical Advisor, and member of the Clinical Safety Group at NHS Digital.
Andy qualified as a Physiotherapist at the Royal London Hospital and has worked in a variety of acute, community, intermediate and primary care settings; mainly in the UK but also for 18 months in Honduras and Guatemala. He is passionate about the safe and successful implementation and use of health IT systems to improve patient care, and the patient experience of care.

I’ve just celebrated my 20th Clinical Informatics birthday, having started my journey as part of the Salford EPR team when it was first formed in 1999. After 7 happy years there I then joined the national Summary Care Record (SCR) programme when it was first conceived in 2006 and I rode that rollercoaster for the next 10 years. I’m now well into my 4th year as a Clinical Safety Officer (CSO). I am one of 2 full time CSOs in the NHS Digital Clinical Safety Team, working alongside 9 Safety Engineers. We work closely together and bring different perspectives to the work that we do.

This seems like a good time of year to reflect back on 2019, what my role entails and what lies ahead for me in 2020.

A large proportion of my time is spent working with a Safety Engineer to review the clinical safety case reports and hazard logs, submitted by the CSOs of both system manufacturers and the health organisations using the systems, to ensure that they are complying with the mandated DCB 0129 and DCB 0160 standards, and that the systems are safe to connect to national systems and services (eg eRS, PDS etc). This may be from existing contracts ensuring their solution remains safe through the day to day use and subsequent upgrades but also from new suppliers, or organisations taking a new solution, to make sure they have a robust clinical risk management system in place before deployment.

In many cases, connecting a solution to national system will require the NHS Digital Clinical Safety Group (CSG) to issue a Clinical Authority To Release (CATR). My role as part of the CSG is to review the evidence in support of a connection and discuss with my team as to whether a CATR may be issued. I’ve lost track of the number of systems we have approved over my time at NHS Digital, but I feel proud to be part of a team that encourages and supports the introduction of technology into the NHS whilst also making sure that it is appropriately safe for our patients.

An important aspect of the work I do is providing a clinical risk assessment for incidents that are reported and manging these incidents through to resolution.

Working in clinical safety can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding, and the part of my role which I enjoy the most is delivering the NHS Digital Clinical Risk Management Training and facilitating the Clinical Safety Community of Interest Course (https://digital.nhs.uk/services/solution-assurance/the-clinical-safety-team/clinical-risk-management-training). It’s a real privilege to be able to share knowledge to support clinicians and non-clinicians working to develop, implement and use health and social care systems safely.

Last year we delivered 31 courses, training 682 clinical and non-clinical staff.

Looking forward we are continuously reviewing and improving our training content, building on the silver accreditation it was awarded in 2018, and aiming for gold in 2020. We are also developing a new e-learning module for existing CSOs so their knowledge remains up to date and relevant.

We know that clinical safety is of paramount importance and we do our best to make sure everyone else knows this too. I am always keen to speak at events and conferences, spreading the word about the standards, responsibilities and available training. You can meet myself and my team at the upcoming NHS Patient Safety Congress in Manchester, on 20/05/2020.

We have an exciting year coming up in the Clinical Safety team. 2020 brings about a number of opportunities and emerging challenges. There are changes within the Medical Device arena that we need to be involved in. AI and machine learning continues to become more prominent in the clinical safety space and we are constantly pushing to ensure people recognise the importance of clinical safety in the rush to revolutionise the manufacture and introduction of technology.

I love my job and I love being part of something so exciting, innovating and important. I’ll be writing more about my work, the challenges and what’s upcoming soon so watch this space!