• Programme created partnerships with four strategic health authorities to improve patient safety between 2009-2012.
  • Four SHAs were: NHS South Central, NHS South West, NHS North West, NHS North East.
  • Projects covered a wide range of safety improvements in different settings, including hospitals, GP practices, community hospitals and community nursing teams.

The programme worked with the SHA teams to support the setting up and running of projects, including giving them access to specialist improvement knowledge and helping them to build project management and quality improvement capability.

Clinical areas included:

  • drug safety
  • reducing deaths from venous thromboembolism
  • safer surgery
  • the treatment of deteriorating patients
  • improving safety in primary care.


Learning that emerged from the programme included:


  • Set realistic and measurable goals and ensure the burden of data collection doesn't outweigh the benefits of improvement.
  • Team briefings and on-ward visual reminders are effective ways of raising awareness and keeping patient safety in people’s minds.

Team development

  • Almost all teams reported difficulties with team engagement and momentum. Strong clinical leaders were instrumental in making many of the projects succeed.
  • Teams that participated in shared learning sessions and worked together to overcome engagement barriers developed stronger teams


  • Measurement has a critical role in driving improvement. Regular monitoring and feeding back helped to sustain momentum. Projects that shared audit data with team members saw practices improve.
  • Having good quality data was paramount to the success of many projects. Where data quality was poor or not collected, this had a significant impact on the work.

Organisational support

  • Projects that had early senior support and which are integrated with organisational and strategic objectives are more likely to succeed. Considering scale up and spread of improvement work at the beginning played a key role later in the project.
  • Particular progress was observed when consultants who previously worked in organisational silos were given opportunities to form a professional network and a peer-to-peer learning exchange.

Related resources

Safer Patients Initiative