Patient Safety Resource Centre

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This month we feature content on culture and leadership in patient safety

Health Foundation resources


The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ can be translated as both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. But when it comes to crises in the NHS – like at Southern Health, Morecambe Bay or Mid Staffordshire – the dangers are well documented, but the opportunities are often missed. Sure, each crisis is often accompanied by a blizzard of policy initiatives, but on the ground little seems to change.

In his statement to parliament on Wednesday (9 March), the Secretary of State for Health remarked that there are two important ingredients for culture change in the NHS: “openness and transparency about where problems exist, and a true learning culture to put them right.”

Health care is a hazardous business. It brings together sick patients, complex systems, fallible professionals and advanced technology. It is classed as a ‘safety-critical industry’, where errors or design failures can lead to the loss of life. We all want to make care safer in our health service. But it’s complicated.