We know that a significant number of patients experience some form of healthcare-associated harm during their care, and that in many cases the problem is caused by unreliable healthcare systems and processes.
A new report from the Health Foundation, called Using safety cases in industry and healthcare, suggests that borrowing an approach called ‘safety cases’ from other industries could help prevent harm occurring.
Safety cases were developed by the oil, nuclear and rail industries in response to high-profile accidents and disasters. Staff collect evidence from a range of different sources to build a sound argument that systems are safe and risks are controlled and monitored. These arguments and their supporting evidence are called safety cases.
The Health Foundation is testing how this approach could work in healthcare through its improvement programme Safer Clinical Systems.
Dr Elaine Maxwell, Assistant Director of Patient Safety at the Health Foundation, says: 'The UK is a leader in terms of technical expertise and practical experience in the use of safety cases in other industries. Applying this approach in healthcare is really interesting. It would allow us to bring together information about a number of different harms to get an overall picture of safety within a clinical system.'
Dr Mark-Alexander Sujan, from Warwick Medical School, who led the research says: 'Safety cases have the potential to radically change how we assess whether an organisation is safe. It is possible that safety cases will allow us to move from compliance-based assessments to one where organisations are assessed on their ability to proactively manage risks and prevent incidents occurring in the future.'
Emily Cameron, Public Affairs Officer
T: 020 7257 8017
Using safety cases in industry and healthcare was commissioned by the Health Foundation and conducted by a research team led by Dr Mark-Alexander Sujan from Warwick Medical School. It describes the use of safety cases in safety-critical industries, and makes pragmatic recommendations for their possible adoption in healthcare.
The core of the safety case is typically a risk-based argument and corresponding evidence to demonstrate that:
The report highlights a number of potential benefits of using safety cases in healthcare, including:
Safer Clinical Systems is a programme that takes a fresh and proactive approach to safety improvement. Rather than waiting until a problem has occurred, the programme helps healthcare teams proactively identify areas of risk, enabling them to build better, safer healthcare systems. Find out more about Safer Clinical Systems.