Outcomes of SEA

SEA then provides a systematic approach for multi-professional teams to learn from experience, both good and bad, in order to improve the quality of patient care.

One or more of the following five actions can result from the discussion of an individual incident.

Congratulation.  Traditionally the health service has not concerned itself with identifying or acknowledging achievement: certainly the NHS workplace has provided few arenas for the celebration of individual or team success.  Paradoxically, some of the best practice may often be found in adverse circumstances.  So in SEA team members may bring up incidents in which they felt their performance may not have been ideal, only to learn after discussion with colleagues that the episode showed personal achievement, as well as producing learning points for all.

Immediate Action.  Highlighting an incident may show that something has to be put right straight away.  The team sees the need, agrees to act and the situation is corrected.

Conventional Audit.  A specific episode with one patient can raise the question as to whether this might be the case for one or more others.  The group may decide to commission an audit, to clarify the situation, which can in due course itself lead to changes and improvement in practice.

Further work needed.  Perhaps an incident raises questions, which call for further consideration.  More facts are needed, other people may need to be involved, even a patient contacted – the group may feel that learning and improving in this case is best achieved by asking one or more of the team to pursue these matters and report back with suggestions at the next meeting.

No Action.  There are times when experiences can be usefully expressed, but no specific action needs to be taken.  Sometimes these occasions can be especially important, representing as they do examples of team members’ frustration – “Life’s like that”… Providing a safe environment for listening and sharing has been shown to be a much-valued benefit of SEA.

So SEA enhances the quality of care directly by providing a forum for learning from the team’s experiences, through its constituent individual members.  Risk management can be addressed through immediate action, improvements initiated, enquiries set up, and relevant topics for conventional audit identified.

At the same time, SEA provides an opportunity to team build, or to strengthen existing teams. Working together on quality improvement generates mutual understanding and an atmosphere of trust, which can itself begin to create a setting in which delicate areas such as the exploration of deficiencies in performance can take place.

All of which all adds up to good reasons to try it!