Healthcare systems are under stress as never before. An ageing population, increasing complexity and comorbidities, continual innovation, the ambition to allow unfettered access to care and the demands on professionals contrast sharply with the limited capacity of healthcare systems and the realities of financial austerity. This tension inevitably brings new and potentially serious hazards for patients and means that the overall quality of care frequently falls short of the standard expected by both patients and professionals. The early ambition of achieving consistently safe and high-quality care for all1 has not been realised and patients continue to be placed at risk.
In this paper published in BMJ Quality & Safety, Amalberti and Vincent discuss the strategies we might adopt to protect patients when healthcare systems and organisations are under stress and simply cannot provide the standard of care they aspire to.