Key points

  • As demonstrated by Virginia Mason in the US, and some inspiring examples in the UK, the ambition to reduce harm must be matched by the ingredients that help to deliver sustainable improvements in safety.
  • These ingredients include a stable and dedicated leadership team, an explicit and agreed vision for improvement, a systematic approach to engaging staff and developing their skills, and a commitment to the incremental improvement of quality.
  • We set out five questions that organisations should ask themselves to help make the ambition to reduce avoidable harm a reality.

This briefing follows a March 2014 speech by the Secretary of State for Health at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. In his speech, Jeremy Hunt MP set out a new ambition to reduce avoidable harm to patients in the NHS.

In recent years, Virginia Mason has had considerable success in delivering safe care and financial sustainability. This briefing outlines the factors that have contributed to their success, and how a similar approach has been used in the UK. It aims to help those working to improve patient safety in the NHS.

Further reading

Thought paper

Integrating human factors with infection prevention and control

May 2013

The application of human factors principles within infection prevention and control activities – up...

Evidence scan

Levels of harm in primary care

November 2011

This evidence scan collates empirical evidence about errors and patient harm in primary care

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