ICON has stepped up its commitment to high standards with a new clinical governance programme, a reflection of the network’s dedication to ensuring that its vision – to provide the best possible cancer care to the widest number of people – is kept on track.
“Clinical governance is a systematic approach to maintaining and improving the quality of patient care within a health system or organisation and a way of ensuring high clinical standards are upheld by all members of an organisation,” says Dr Ernst Marais, ICON’s Operations Executive. “At ICON, it will help ensure that everyone is on the same page, acting in line with the organisation’s objectives and vision.”
Clinical governance developed alongside corporate governance in response to the need for more accountability in financial and management structures. Following the Bristol Heart scandal in the mid 1990s, the (NHS) National Health Service in the UK implemented clinical governance across all of its operations and it has subsequently become part of the structural arms of health departments and organisations around the world.
At the head of ICON’s clinical governance programme is Professor Raymond Abratt, former head of the Department of Radiation Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, and an internationally known and acclaimed oncologist, who joined ICON earlier this year.
Professor Abratt believes firmly in its value. “Clinical governance needs to have a positive impact at the patient-doctor level. It is about both opportunities and risks.”
Professor Abratt also stresses the importance of accountability and continuous quality improvement, which includes education programmes in professional skills and presenting original data on clinical effectiveness, as well as reporting to the board of directors.
“I see the relationship with doctors as key to clinical governance. Interactions need to be respectful and meet high professional standards. We have to ensure safe practice on all fronts.”
Professor Abratt has identified five themes, which will be key for the programme: Clinical Care (which focuses on the use of integrated and professional care plans, information on patterns of practice and research on clinical effectiveness), Health Personnel (which pertains to the recognition of special skills and continual professional development), Evidence-based Medicine (including treatment protocols that are developed in collaboration with oncologists), High Quality Equipment and Facilities (featuring reviews by expert panels and continuous improvement plans) and Safe Practice (around preventative policies to minimise risks, recommendations of a safety advisory committee and teams to investigate the root cause of incidents).
Professor Abratt says projects will be launched in each of these areas and regular feedback sessions are planned.
Professor Abratt is looking forward to rolling the programme out. “I see this as a continuation of my previous work. There is the same underlying theme of ‘how does this reflect on the care of our patients?’ Maintaining high standards is a key value at ICON and, like all values, must be reflected in all decisions.”
“ICON has been going from strength to strength over the past eight years,” concludes Dr Marais. “We have always been committed to high standards and quality clinical work, but this new initiative gives more substance to this key objective.”