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  • A formative evaluation: The patient safety specialist role (THIS Institute, 9 May 2024)

    Article information
    • UK
    • Data, research and analysis
    • Pre-existing
    • Original author
    • No
    • THIS Institute
    • 09/05/24
    • Patient safety leads, Researchers/academics


    Patient Safety Specialists are individuals in NHS healthcare organisations who have been designated to provide dynamic senior patient safety leadership. This report shares the findings of an evaluation of this role conducted by THIS Institute, which took place between September 2022 and March 2024. As part of this they spoke to people involved in developing and supporting the role and examined the perspectives of role holders using a survey, focus groups and case-study interviews.


    Findings of this evaluation included:

    • The numbers of patient safety specialists employed by organisations varied substantially. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said that they were the only patient safety specialist in their organisation, 26% said they were one of two, and 37% were employed in organisations with three or more patient safety specialists.
    • The evaluation findings suggested that many organisations were struggling to resource their patient safety specialists to the extent that specialists themselves would like and that NHS England recommended. Over a third of survey respondents (38%) had no formally allocated time for their patient safety specialist role, leading many to perceive it as an ‘add-on’ to their ‘day job’.
    • There were more mixed views on respondents’ experiences with their organisations. While 42% felt well supported by their organisation in their role, 30% did not. Only a quarter (24%) thought that their organisation allocated sufficient time to patient safety specialists and only a third (34%) believed that the objectives set by their organisations for the role were appropriate.
    • One of the most frequently described challenges, especially in focus groups but also in interviews and the survey, was the need to navigate different ways of doing and thinking about patient safety, reflecting the distinction between Safety-I (focused on finding and fixing problems individually) and Safety-II (focused on resilience, adaptability and learning and improvement across systems).

    This initial evaluation is designed to inform a fuller, longer-term evaluation of the role, its impact on patient safety, and how best to support patient safety specialists.

    A formative evaluation: The patient safety specialist role (THIS Institute, 9 May 2024) https://www.thisinstitute.cam.ac.uk/research/outputs/the-patient-safety-specialist-role-a-formative-evaluation/
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