A WORLD-FAMOUS mountaineer has been enlisted by the NHS in Scotland to give advice to frontline doctors and nurses on how to improve patient safety.

Andy Cave will focus on teamwork and managing risk at a major conference on Tuesday.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland, which carries out hospital inspections and evaluates the latest medicines, also runs the flagship Scottish Patient Safety Programme and has asked Cave, 49, to give a motivational speech to more than 100 staff.

Health chiefs believe Cave’s input at their conference in Glasgow will help NHS staff learn about patient safety from the world of mountaineering, and how teamwork is crucial in stressful, high-risk environments.

Yorkshireman Cave said: “I am not from the world of medicine and patient care, I am a mountaineer and I guess the information I’ll be giving in my keynote speech is based on my 30 years of experience leading teams on some of the most difficult and dangerous mountains in the world in the Himalayas, often going where people have not been before.

“I also used to be a coalminer and worked underground for four years, and my PhD research was in the area of teams, occupation and identity, so I’ve got a keen interest in what makes high-performance teams tick. I am focusing on four key harms – reducing infections, cardiac arrests, falls and bed sores.

“Scotland’s track record of reducing these harms is very, very good and this programme has been extremely successful.”

He insisted there were a lot of similarities to the risks and pressures of mountaineering and working with patients in the NHS.

He added: “I give people a lens into a parallel world where some of the issues they face, we have also come across in a mountain setting. Although some of the particulars are different, some of the core themes are the same.

“In a hospital there is a lot at stake in the same way high-level mountaineers or airline pilots have to deal with having [to] make decisions under pressure. What we are talking about here are teams under pressure, and how they deal with that pressure.

“In my mountaineering career I have tried to be safe and successful in the long-term and that involves a lot of trade-offs, big decisions under pressure. Sometimes on a mountain we have to be fast, climb quickly, you haven’t got time and it’s the same in a hospital where one small mistake could have huge consequences.

“Teamwork and good leadership, and celebrating success, are all part and parcel of it, as well as making sure people behave in the right way, even when no-one is watching, and making sure the basics are right. Also, they should raise their hands if they feel something is not being done right or could be improved.”

Scottish Patient Safety Programme bosses said they were “delighted” Cave had agreed to be their keynote speaker at the event at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

A spokesperson said: “These learning sessions are an opportunity for frontline NHS hospital staff to share knowledge and experiences, and to learn from one another to enable improvement in patient safety wherever they may work.

“Holding national and/or regional learning events supports improvement at board level and in turn assists staff care for patients. We welcome Andy’s input as we are keen to learn about safety improvements from outside the NHS.

“Andy’s experience of leading teams in challenging situations will provide important insight that the NHS in Scotland can learn from.”