Complex systems consist of many dynamic interactions between people, tasks, technology, environments (physical and social), organisational structures and arrangement and external factors, such as the influence of national policy or regulation.
The nature of these interactions often results in unpredictable changes in system conditions (such as patient demand, staff capacity, available resources and organisational constraints) and goal conflicts (such as the frequent pressure to be efficient and thorough).
To achieve success, people frequently adapt to these system conditions and goal conflicts. But rather than being planned in advance, these adaptations are often approximate responses to the situations faced at the time.
Therefore, to understand patient safety or staff wellbeing (and other emergent outcomes) we need to look beyond the individual components of care systems to consider how outcomes (wanted and unwanted) emerge from interactions in, and adaptations to, everyday working conditions.
Follow the link below to the NHS Education Scotland (NES) website to find out more about systems thinking and access systems approach resources.