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The NHS Patient Safety Strategy

04 October 2021


  • Patient Safety

Serious hospital executive talks during meeting

Patient safety is an important term in the NHS, and it’s not hard to see why. When any care is being carried out, a patient’s safety should be the number one priority. That’s why the NHS has a full patient safety strategy with the aim to continuously and build on the foundations of a safer culture and safer systems. 


Firstly, what is patient safety?

The NHS defines patient safety as:

“Patient safety is the avoidance of unintended or unexpected harm to people during the provision of health care. We support providers to minimise patient safety incidents and drive improvements in safety and quality. Patients should be treated in a safe environment and protected from avoidable harm.”

Read our blog for more – what is patient safety?

Improve your patient safety


Three strategic aims

Patient safety in the NHS has always been a priority to improve upon, and there’s always more that can be done. The NHS recognises that patient safety is a group effort, and culture needs to move away from blame to one which drives improvements. If this is done right could save almost 1,000 extra lives and £100 million in care costs each year from 2023/2024. 

NHS England’s vision is to continuously improve patient safety. There are 2 foundations the strategy is built on, which are a patient safety culture and a patient safety system.

There are 3 strategic aims which have been developed to help NHS organisations develop both the foundations:

  • Insight – using information from sources of patient safety to improve the understanding of safety
  • Involvement – improve patient safety through the whole system by ensuring patients, staff and partners have the skills and opportunities required
  • Improvement – deliver effective and sustainable change in priority areas through designing and supporting programmes

Under each of these aims for the national patient safety strategy are actions which the NHS will take in order to promote patient safety learning and improvement.



A few of the points the NHS have said they will action under the insight aim are:

  • Use new digital technologies to support learning by replacing the National Reporting and Learning System with a new system, Learn from Patient Safety Events (LFPSE)
  • The new National Patient Safety Alerts Committee to help improve the response to risks
  • Improve the response and investigation of incidents by introducing the Patient Safety Incident Response Framework



As part of the involvement aim, the NHS will:

  • Involve patients, families, carers and others in providing safer care through established principles
  • Assign patient safety specialists to lead improvements in safety across NHS foundation trusts and beyond
  • Create the national patient safety syllabus for training and education across the NHS



NHS England and NHS Improvement will drive good practice and patient safety improvements by:

  • Ensuring research and innovation support the improvement of patient safety
  • Spreading safety interventions through delivering the National Patient Safety Improvement Programme
  • Support safety improvement in higher risk groups such as older people by working with partners across the NHS


NHS Patient Safety Strategy: 2021 update

After publishing the patient safety strategy in 2019, the NHS have made some updates in 2021. The principles and high level objectives have not changed, but there has been some shift in scope.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

Last year’s LeDeR annual report showed that in 2019, those with a learning disability from BAME groups died at younger ages than white British people. Of those who died in the age range of 4-17, 43% were from BAME groups. The NHS has therefore highlighted how those with multiple inequalities can experience different safety outcomes, as well as those with single inequalities.

A new commitment to address patient safety inequalities is the most significant strategy update in the 2021 version. The NHS will identify current patient safety culture and mechanisms which contribute to inequality and then set actions to address these.

Impact of COVID-19 on strategy implementation

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of the NHS, including the timelines of the original strategy. The strategy has needed to focus on patient safety around COVID, and as a result saw the importance that medical examiners and patient safety specialists could have in any future pandemic response or national health crisis. The NHS has therefore decided to prioritise these programmes, by providing online training for medical examiners and launching the patient safety initiative. 

Patient safety infrastructure

This focuses on more tangible deliveries of safety culture and systems. The NHS will form a space dedicated to the sharing of insight on safety culture indicators and offering guidance on identifying and addressing culture issues.

The aim is to help NHS organisations embed a culture of patient safety through a cycle of understanding the issue, developing a plan, delivering the plan and evaluating the outcome.


How technology can help with the 3 strategic aims

The use of technology in organisations both within and outside of healthcare has been accelerated because of the pandemic. An intelligent software can help your NHS organisation meet these aims:

  • Insight – Radar Healthcare takes the information you put into the system and translates it into in-depth insights without the need for a data analyser. It will help you spot trends where patient safety may be lacking and help you to avoid these in future.
  • Involvement – The workforce compliance module of Radar Healthcare helps you ensure all staff have the training required to carry out their activities.
  • Improvement – At Radar Healthcare our aim is to make healthcare safer for everyone. Our software helps you to drive improvements by spotting issues and automatically triggering action plans to relevant staff members.

If your current quality, compliance and risk software is lacking in driving patient safety improvements, consider Radar Healthcare. Find out more or book a demo.


More on patient safety

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