Taking inspiration and advice from a hospital regarded as one of the safest in the world is surely a positive step for Leeds and the NHS as a whole.
But when Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) was one of five in the country set to benefit from mentoring from experts at the Virginia Mason Institute, in Seattle, he didn’t talk too in depth about the American hospital’s lauded approach.
In fairness, a lot of their thinking appears common sense – the idea that commonly used supplies are moved closer to hospital departments so staff spend more time with patients, for example, is something that seems blindingly obvious.
It does seem that the American approach is, however, as much a masterclass in delivering an efficient service with less resource as it is about making hospitals safer.
A climate of cuts and the increasing demands on the NHS in recent years has crippled trusts nationwide, with LTH chiefs predicting a £40million deficit for the upcoming financial year as it embarks on a mammoth £67m savings programme.
And the much publicised Five Year Forward View plan launched last year talked of an estimated £30billion funding gap nationally by 2020 if drastic changes weren’t made.
So it is little wonder that the Leeds trust was keen to benefit from Virginia Mason’s finance conscious expertise.
Its approach was lauded for bringing “factory efficiency” to the hospital setting by employing lean manufacturing principles to eliminate waste, improve quality and cut costs.
Make no mistake, helping NHS chiefs balance the books will be a high priority during the Anglo-American link up.
For the next five years staff from the Virginia Mason Institute, in Seattle, will spend time and share ideas with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the move is an attempt to reduce the 800 “avoidable” deaths that happen every month in hospitals in England.
Four other trusts have been selected for the partnership in Shropshire, Warwickshire, Essex, Surrey and Sussex.
Dubbed the USA’s hospital of the decade, the Virginia Mason Institute completely changed the way it operated after the death of a patient due to a medical error in 2004.