Patient safety practices in healthcare aim to protect patients from avoidable harm. They involve a multitude of processes put in place to prevent errors in systems, and to encourage a culture of learning from errors.

With this emphasis on a learning culture and preventing systematic error, patient safety plays a key role in planning and designing services. In the current healthcare environment, new models of care (eg networks, federations and hospital groupings) result in frequent evolution in organisational structures and boundaries. It is important that patient safety is paramount when considering the impact of these changes. If organisational priorities for care delivery (eg 4-hour targets) potentially conflict with patient safety, then patient safety should always be the overriding concern.

This section considers patient safety relating to the following aspects:

  • national and international patient safety infrastructure
  • lessons learnt from previous reviews
  • measuring safety
  • monitoring measurements of safety
  • learning from errors.

It is important to note that this is not a comprehensive account of how to improve patient safety, as this is beyond the scope of this resource. However, this resource aims to highlight key actions, perspectives and signpost the major concepts that need to be considered to design a safe service.