A major change is underway in the NHS, which aims to put patient safety at the heart of every NHS organisation in England. Patient Safety Specialists will act as experts in their organisation, supporting the development of safety culture and systems, and becoming the go-to person to facilitate teams’ improvement activity. All trusts and clinical commissioning groups in England are designating at least one member of staff to take up this role.
Getting a specialist in place for every acute trust, foundation trust and clinical commissioning group is a significant ask. They will be existing members of staff, and will work full-time (or as a job share) as patient safety experts, providing dynamic, senior leadership, visibility and support.
A leadership role
The ambition for Patient Safety Specialists was set out in the NHS Patient Safety Strategy published in 2019. It said that, ‘Specialists should be recognised as key leaders within the safety system, visible to their organisations and others, able to support their organisations’ safety work.’
The strategy adds that patient safety specialists should have oversight of, and provide support for, patient safety activities across their organisations: ‘Part of their role will be to ensure that systems thinking, human factors and just culture principles are embedded in all patient safety activity.’
Patient Safety Collaborative support
As Patient Safety Collaboratives already work with local health systems and networks, and deliver the five National Patient Safety Improvement Programmes we can help patient safety specialists build a strong network to help deliver these goals, and Patient Safety Collaboratives will be a key stakeholder for them.
The majority of trusts and CCGs have now completed this process of identifying their Patient Safety Specialists. If you are one of them, reading this blog, I encourage you to contact the Patient Safety Lead for your local Patient Safety Collaboratives (there are 15, each hosted by an Academic Health Science Network).
We are already engaging with specialists through our networks, and nationally through a series of webinars being held by NHS England and NHS Improvement to introduce specialists to our the National Patient Safety Improvement Programmes.
A step-change in safer care
Creating this high-profile, senior leadership role is a big step forward in how we promote and support patient safety. It is my hope that over time, we can build on this starting point to spread the values and techniques of a safety culture much further, so that it becomes the day-to-day business of every NHS team.
I wish all the new Patient Safety Specialists good luck in their new role, and we look forward to working with you.