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July 2018

Setting the agenda for future patient safety research

The research team at the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC) needs your help developing its future research agenda. We want you to challenge us with your ideas for patient safety research for the next 5-10 years, informed by your knowledge of delivering, receiving or researching care.

You can tell us what you think by suggesting research questions here:

Or read on for some background about patient safety and about our PSTRC.

What is patient safety?
Patient safety is the ‘prevention of errors and adverse effects to patients associated with health care’.(1) We know that in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US, about 1 in 10 patients admitted to hospital suffer some harm that is preventable. Since the late 1990s there has been a focus on preventing this unintended harm to patients. The focus of attention can often be on serious failures in care, such as wrong site surgery, incorrect doses of medication or feeding tubes inserted into the lungs that cause harm or even death. Yet the 2010 Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiry led by Sir Robert Francis brought attention to the ‘considerable suffering’ patients experienced due to failures of basic care such as hydration and hygiene.(2) Reports such as this have highlighted how safety problems are rarely caused by individuals, but by “systems, procedures, conditions, environment and constraints”. (3)

Recently, patient safety researchers have called for a new focus on what goes right in healthcare, instead of the focus on deconstructing incidents, recognising that for most patients healthcare is successful and they are unharmed. They have argued that emphasis must be placed on understanding how staff members adapt their performance to prevent harm occurring in response to difficult and varying conditions. (4)

What is a patient safety translational research centre (PSTRC)?
A PSTRC develops and tests ideas and tools to improve the safety of patient care. Our Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC started delivering research in August 2017 and our priority research areas for the first two years are already set – they include enabling patients to play a central role in their own safety, the potential for digital technology to improve safety, how we create workplaces that people want to work in, and how we can enhance the safe use of medicines across care settings. You can find out more about our work on our website.

We now want to find out what you think the most important safety improvement research questions are so we can plan our future work. So far our advisory board, clinician and patient groups have given us an idea of what they think is important. Here’s a taste of what they have asked us – you can tell us if you agree.

  • Can you really hand over a patient safely in 15 minutes?
  • What do sheltered care homes have a protocol to dial 999 for every fall?
  • How do we reduce barriers to staff being heard in teams due to hierarchy, power, ethnicity, and gender?
  • Is it safe for patients to self-administer medicines on the ward?
  • Is there a link between patient safety incidents and a lack of activity on mental health wards?

Over to you

We want you to tell us what you think the most important patient safety research questions are. You may have ideas from a recent experience of care or from your experiences in delivering care. You may agree with some of the questions above or think that some vital areas for research are missing.

Tell us what you think by submitting research questions here:




1 The World Health Organization. Patient Safety. 2018. Available online

2 The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiry. Independent Inquiry into care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust January 2005 – March 2009. 2010.

3 National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England. A Promise to Learn – a Comittment to Act. Improving the Safety of Patients in England. 2013.

4 Braithwaite, J., Wears, R.L., Hollnagel, E. Resilient health care: turning patient safety on its head, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 2015;27(5):418–420.



This project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC). The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care.