Framework for involving patients in patient safety

The NHS Patient Safety Strategy (July 2019) recognises the importance of involving patients, their families and carers and other lay people in improving the safety of NHS care, as well as the role that patients and carers can have as partners in their own safety.

This framework sets out how NHS organisations should involve patients in patient safety.

About the framework

The Framework for involving patients in patient safety is relevant to all NHS trusts and commissioners and should also be useful to other NHS settings, including primary care and community services, that are considering how they can involve patients in safety. Integrated care systems should consider how they can involve patients as part of their safety governance processes as they develop and mature.

The framework is split into two parts:

  • Part A: Involving patients in their own safety
  • Part B: Patient safety partner (PSP) involvement in organisational safety

Implementation of this framework will take time. Different organisations are in very different places. Some are already delivering over and above what we advocate here, while others will need to carefully plan and work towards these activities. We will work with the wider NHS to understand the pace at which this work can be delivered.

In recognition of current NHS capacity issues, as well as competing priorities around the establishment of ICSs, we have extended the timescale for organisations to appoint two patient safety partners to their safety related committees. We now ask that this action is completed by the end of September 2022, rather than June as originally stated. The appointment of lay people as patient safety partners is a key part of the framework.

What are Patient Safety Partners (PSPs)

Part B of the framework ‘PSP involvement in organisational safety’ relates to the role that patients, carers and other lay people can play in supporting and contributing to a healthcare organisation’s governance and management processes for patient safety.

Roles for PSPs can include:

  • membership of safety and quality committees whose responsibilities include the review and analysis of safety data
  • involvement in patient safety improvement projects
  • working with organisation boards to consider how to improve safety
  • involvement in staff patient safety training
  • participation in investigation oversight groups.

Introduction of PSPs in NHS organisations

The introduction of PSPs should be considered the start of a journey that may significantly change the way some organisations approach patient involvement. It requires power sharing, a commitment to openness and transparency between staff and patients, as well as good leadership; it must not be tokenistic. For this reason, the framework advocates organisations first assess their ‘readiness’ to engage PSPs.

Before an organisation recruits PSPs, its most senior managers should consider if they are ready as leaders to provide an effective culture to support PSPs. Tokenistic attempts to introduce PSPs are likely to be detrimental overall.

The NHS Patient Safety Strategy includes the ambition for all safety-related clinical governance committees (or equivalents) in NHS organisations to include two PSPs by June 2022, and for them to have received the required training by June 2023.

Supporting resources

The appendices of the main framework document contain a number of resources and templates providers can adapt for use in their own organisation. For ease of use, these have also been made available as Microsoft Word versions.

To support organisations to implement the framework, an interactive resource reflecting learning and top tips generated by the IPIPS co-design group is also now available on the NHS Patient Safety FutureNHS workspace.

We have also produced a video and leaflet providing tips for patients on keeping safe during a hospital stay. Providers are encouraged to make the leaflet and video available to patients ahead of coming into hospital for elective treatment. A supporting communications toolkit is available on FutureNHS to support organisations to do this.

Developing the framework

We have developed this framework in partnership with our stakeholders, including existing patient safety partners and NHS frontline staff. We have also built on good practice where already available, particularly work by NHS England to promote the public’s involvement and work by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in volunteering in public services.

We consulted on a draft version of the framework in 2020, and also hosted a series of focus groups involving staff, patients and carers to further inform the framework’s content.