Helen Vernon explains why the role of director of safety and learning at NHS Resolution can make a lasting difference to the safety of NHS patients

Helen Vernon has been chief executive of NHS Resolution since 2014. She has led the transition of NHS Resolution from its predecessor bodies to an organisation which places a greater emphasis on keeping disputes out of court and on learning from what goes wrong in order to support improvements in healthcare. 

Ms Vernon first joined the NHS Litigation Authority in 1998, becoming its director of claims in 2013. She has an MA in Law from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University and is a chartered insurer and accredited mediator. Prior to joining the NHS LA she had a career in insurance before specialising in clinical negligence indemnity.

Why this job?

NHS Resolution is uniquely placed within the health service with an interesting and challenging mission. Our main function is to operate indemnity schemes (akin to insurance) for compensation claims brought against the NHS in England. This provides a valuable opportunity to support healthcare organisations to learn from the events which lead claims in order to improve patient safety. Our director of safety and learning leads this work, and provides corporate leadership to our organisation as an executive member of our board. The information we hold on the multiple causes of healthcare claims is unmatched anywhere else in the world and dates back to the formation of the NHS. Our new director will be joining us at an exciting time in our history and will be able to call on the skills of a fantastic team of clinicians, legal and claims staff, excellent external relationships and our newly developed IT architecture to really make a lasting difference to the safety of NHS patients.

Why this organisation?

NHS Resolution has an established relationship with every provider of healthcare in the NHS. We are able to take a supportive role to help organisations understand their risks. We are well placed as a national body, to act as a convenor, using the platform of the indemnity schemes to drive change. We were established in 1995 as an arm’s-length body of the Department of Health and Social Care, so our new director will see us into our 30th year as an organisation with deep expertise and a commitment to public service which our team are proud to be part of. We recently achieved Investors in People Gold and place a great emphasis on developing our staff to make the most of their abilities so that they can provide the best possible service to the NHS. Our new director will be welcomed into the organisation as part of an exceptional team doing important work which makes a difference to patients and those who care for them.

How will the role advance your career?

Our director of safety and learning has a national profile and there are also opportunities to connect with our international equivalents, with whom we have established relationships. The role is an outward facing one and will give the successful candidate an unparalleled opportunity to build on and extend the excellent partnerships NHS Resolution has across the health and legal systems. The director will take a visible lead in enhancing our reputation as an expert and professional organisation. The next phase for our Safety and Learning Service is to take recommendations for improvement arising from our work into implementation as well as to continue the development of our two pioneering schemes for maternity services – the Maternity Incentive Scheme and the Early Notification Scheme. In demonstrating the impact of this work, a successful director will be able to show how they have made a positive difference to patients and their families, to the experience and retention of valued NHS staff and to the financial bottom line, freeing up public funds which could be used to care for patients. This is a rare opportunity to take up a high profile role in an established but dynamic organisation with much to do.

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