THE doctor tasked with improving standards of care in the NHS in Scotland is working with medics in Israel in a bid to drive down hospital infection and mortality rates.


Dr Jason Leitch has been national clinical director since 2012 and before that he led the Scottish Patient Safety programme, which significantly reduced deaths following operations.

Mr Leitch, who has degrees from Glasgow and Harvard universities, told a conference at The Nazareth Hospital that the changes in Scotland had been devised "on the frontline and not in the boardroom" with the input and advice of both those receiving the care and the medics delivering it.

He said: "You don't instigate change by deciding what that change is and then writing people a letter telling them to do it. You talk to people. We offer safe and effective 'person-centred' care - and our results speak for themselves.

"The evidence shows that round the world, of those treated in hospital, one fifth are harmed by the care they receive, not by the disease they suffer from. This can be trips and falls, being given the wrong treatment, or picking up infections.

"When we said we would reduce hospital mortality by 20 per cent in eight years people laughed at us and thought we'd gone crazy but this was a burning platform for change."

Originally a dentist who trained to become an oral surgeon before studying public health at Harvard University, Mr Leith used lessons he learned while in the US to inform his work in the Scottish health service.

"We introduced around 40 evidence-based interventions, including a surgical checklist - and we've done much of what we aimed for," he said. "Latest figures show an 18 per cent reduction in mortality."

Mr Leitch said that changes introduced in Scotland had led to a reduction in sepsis, clostridium difficile and other infections.

But he warned that the fact that people are increasingly suffering comorbidity - when they are diagnosed with more than one condition at once - has added particular challenges to the way the health service deals with patients.

He said: "It used to be that people would suffer from one chronic illness - today they are likely to suffer from more, maybe five or six.

"The person-centred approach asks: 'what matters to you? And what do the staff need to do their jobs to the best of their ability'? It's about intervention on the front-line not in the boardroom."

Dr Anat Aker-Zohar, director of quality, safety and service for the Israeli Ministry of Health, and Dr Udi Cantor, chairman of the Israeli Forum of Health Care, were among the audience.

Dr Aker-Zohar said: "We are very interested in working with the Scottish Government and with Jason. I visited Scotland last year and heard him speak then.

"In Israel we are very interested in patient safety, we measure quality by indicators that are published so we can compare hospital to hospital.

"It is a mandatory programme that has led to improvements for us, so we would really like to collaborate with Jason on methodologies and outcomes to replicate the success in Scotland."

The Scottish connection to The Nazareth Hospital dates back some 150 years. It was founded in 1861 by Dr Kaloost Vartan, who gained his medical qualifications in Edinburgh. His pioneering work in Nazareth at that time was funded by the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society.

The current chairman of The Nazareth Trust, Morgan Jamieson, was formerly Scotland's clinical lead for children and young people.