Put Safety First (the system)

At Sign up to Safety we want to re(think) patient safety. We think it’s important that we have an adult conversation about patient safety. I am most heartened by the growing numbers of people and expertise across the NHS such as the people working in the patient safety collaboratives; starting to deeply root our approach to safety improvement and the right safety culture. Moving safety from the periphery to mainstream conversation.

To ‘put safety first’ is no longer about simply setting up incident reporting systems and focusing on the easy to count harms such as falls or pressure ulcers but moving on to design and working on attitudes and behaviours. Measurement should move from counting incidents to observing the way people work, finding out in real life what helps and what hinders safety. Small design changes could make a big difference. Decision making assistance helps human beings think and work. Reducing stress and minimising distractions reduces error. Improving patient safety should be even more important when funds are becoming scarce rather than the opposite.

Human beings need help. Humans love hearing stories about other people. We need concrete examples and actions that we can do now. However, people are stifled by the fear they have not yet been successful. What they need to understand is that others are interested in how people are doing stuff.  The journey and the views are as important as the destination. This helps people experience the challenges and provide them with tips.  Trip advisor provides an insight into a hotel or restaurant through first hand experience.  We need more of that in patient safety improvement. A kind of mystery shopper, ethnography, real world research approach that allows people to share real life progress not the end goal.

Lets start to think differently about what we mean by ‘put safety first’ so that it is not seen as a sound bite but as a demonstrable activity that can be done and done now.