Patient Safety Partners (PSPs) are being recruited by NHS organisations across England as part of NHS England’s Framework for involving patients in patient safety. PSPs can be patients, relatives, carers or other members of the public who want to support and contribute to a healthcare organisation’s governance and management processes for patient safety.
In this blog, Chris Wardley, PSP at a large NHS hospital trust, introduces the Patient Safety Partners Network (PSPN). Chris describes his own experience of starting as a PSP, talks about the large scope of the role and highlights the unique opportunity to influence how an organisation approaches patient safety. He also invites PSPs to join the new network, talking about how it is already helping PSPs in England share learning as they shape their new roles.
The Patient Safety Partner role introduced by NHS England is new and aims to take the involvement of patients, families and carers in how healthcare organisations are run to a different level. NHS England states that having a PSP “requires power sharing, a commitment to openness and transparency between staff and patients, as well as good leadership; it must not be tokenistic.”
The invitation to apply for the PSP role at our large hospital trust said, “this is a new and evolving role designed to shape the future of patient safety in our Trust and across the UK.” When we applied for the role, neither my fellow PSP nor I appreciated the implications of these bold and grand words.
PSPs bring with them a wide range of backgrounds and experience, but most importantly, they are there to offer a patient’s perspective. In our careers, both of us held roles leading innovation for change. My fellow PSP trained as a nurse in the same Trust and was a senior nurse in others before moving into nursing education. I am a chartered engineer and former senior manager in the construction industry. Both of us had also spent several years promoting the patient, family and carer voice in a county-wide role.
When we started as PSPs earlier this year, neither of us expected to have any influence for a while. But after a few months, we started to make welcomed prompts and suggestions. Now after six months, this is progressing rather faster, and we are excited that we have a small but important part to play in improving patient safety in our Trust.
Why do Patient Safety Partners need a network?
Some PSPs are supported by local networks—which might be informal arrangements between local trusts or organised by Integrated Care Boards—but very many aren’t. Organisations are recruiting to these new roles in many ways, seeking a wide range of experiences and expecting very different levels of engagement and influence from the PSPs they engage. The PSPs who are part of the Patient Safety Management Network (PSMN) suggested that an informal, peer support and learning community specifically for PSPs would be valuable. We were therefore delighted that Patient Safety Learning agreed to convene a discussion forum and following this, support a dedicated network. The Patient Safety Partners Network (PSPN) is only a few months old but already has over 70 members. It has held three virtual meetings, focusing on topics of interest to PSPs: communication and variation in PSP roles between trusts.
Since we started as PSPs, we have both found the network a great resource for sharing and learning from others both in the same role and outside it. Having the opportunity to connect with PSPs working in different settings gives us the opportunity to hear new perspectives and support each other. At the meetings, we talk about how our role is playing out in real life, what our expectations and issues are, and how we are each getting involved in improving patient safety. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from each other and understand how other organisations are dealing with patient safety issues and big governance changes such as the roll out of the Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF). 
The conversations we’ve had have been very helpful. We’re beginning to understand the variation in roles in terms of how PSPs are engaged, their level of involvement in organisational processes and governance, and what they are being asked to do practically. The network is currently running a survey for PSPs to help establish how they are operating across England.
As they become established, PSPs are taking a range of approaches—some are beginning by engaging with patients and front-line staff, while others are finding a place on senior level committees. At our Trust, my fellow PSP and I have focused on using our different experiences and strengths. Wherever you are focusing your time, being a member of the PSPN can help you gain the information and confidence to connect with the people in the engine room of your Trust, where you can have a real influence on making improvements for patients.
The PSPN meets online each month on a Tuesday—we alternate meetings between daytime and early evening to fit the availability of different members. Several of our members take turns to chair the meetings and all PSPs are welcome. Our meetings last an hour, and the discussion is always based around topics raised by members. We would love to hear your views and experience at the meetings, but there is no pressure to contribute if you prefer to just watch and listen. You can also use the chat function in Teams to ask questions and suggest topics during the meeting.
Someone takes notes at each meeting so that those who are unable to attend can catch up, but these are only shared on the private PSPN area of the hub, and all comments are non-attributable. The PSP network meetings are safe spaces amongst colleagues.
The network is open to Patient Safety Partners working with NHS organisations in England. It is hosted on the Patient Safety Learning hub and you can join by signing up to the hub today. When putting in your details, please tick ‘Patient Safety Partners Network’ in the ‘Join a private group’ section. If you are already a member of the hub, please email support@PSLhub.org to apply to join the PSPN.
Other patient safety networks supported by the hub
Find out more about the growing number of informal peer support networks hosted and supported by Patient Safety Learning. The networks provide a forum for people involved in patient safety to meet up, share ideas and initiatives and learn from others.
- Patient Safety Partners - A workshop at Kingston Hospital
- Reflections on PSIRF, patient engagement and why we investigate: a recent discussion at the Patient Safety Management Network
- Top picks: PSIRF insights and opinions
- Top picks: PSIRF tools, templates and examples
1 Framework for involving patients in patient safety. NHS England and NHS Improvement, 29 June 2021
2 Patient Safety Incident Response Framework. NHS England, 16 August 2022
3 NHS Patient Safety Strategy: Safer culture, safer systems, safer patients. NHS England and NHS Improvement, 2 July 2019