What next for Learn Not Blame in 2019? Cicely Cunningham writes...

2018 was the beginning of the Learn Not Blame campaign and what a year it was! From a phrase coined by the inimicable David Nicholl to a wave of nationwide outrage at the injustice of criminalisation of healthcare professionals for honest mistakes.


Along with this outrage was the understanding that fear, blame and criminalisation of honest error – especially when made when working in a system under pressure – does nothing for patient safety. Yet too many NHS organisations are perpetuating a culture which allows this toxic mix to thrive, and patients are put at risk. The figures for avoidable harm in the NHS are staggering. And yet the pattern repeats. Too often reputation is put above truth-seeking, families are battered by the process of trying to get answers, and doctors and other healthcare professionals are too fearful of victimisation and blame to put their head above the parapet.


The Learn Not Blame campaign offers a chance to bring together a collective voice about this. To say – enough. The blame culture has to end. We owe it to our patients. We need to create a place where all voices are heard, and all – staff and patients – are cared for. We took this message to Parliament in November, and made our voice heard with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock.


But the Learn Not Blame campaign offers more than that. It’s a chance for each of us to demonstrate how change can happen. To create change within our own sphere of influence. Whether we like it or not, doctors are seen as leaders in the NHS. We all have some influence and how we behave has knock-on effects. And the little things have ripple effects. Take the #hellomynameis campaign – so simple, yet makes such a difference, not just to patients, but to colleagues. But also noticing and thanking someone for their work when they go the extra mile. Asking colleagues if they’re OK when it’s been a tough shift, or talking someone through to debrief. Making sure people know that you want to Learn, Not Blame.


This campaign is all about people. And the people who will make the difference are you. There is much to do, but if we all do it together, we will make progress. 


I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring. In this blog, Jenny Vaughan and I will bring you our thoughts and views on the campaign, along with guest blogs from the many and varied individuals who are supporting us. Follow us on social media, and get in touch by email, facebook or twitter. We want to hear from you. How are YOU making Learn Not Blame a reality?

Sign up to the Learn Not Blame campaign to get your free campaign pack at dauk.org/learnnotblame.