Patient Safety Specialists are individuals in healthcare organisations (predominantly in NHS providers and Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), but also in some independent providers and ALBs) who have been designated to provide dynamic senior patient safety leadership.
Each Patient Safety Specialist is dedicated to providing expert support to their organisation, and is expected to have direct access to their executive team, which facilitates the escalation of patient safety issues or concerns. They also play a key role in the development of a patient safety culture, safety systems and improvement activity.
The requirement for NHS organisations in England to identify one or more Patient Safety Specialist is a key part of the NHS patient safety strategy, with over 700 specialists now in place. Each specialist will be fully trained in the National patient safety syllabus, ensuring NHS organisations are equipped with dedicated highly skilled patient safety professionals, helping to provide consistency across the NHS in its approach to patient safety.
As well as coordinating and supporting local patient safety priorities, Patient Safety Specialists help with the implementation of the NHS patient safety strategy (see below) and other national safety priorities. The specialists have close links with the NHS England and NHS Improvement National Patient Safety Team who host a national network for Patient Safety Specialists, including regular meetings and information sharing through a dedicated online forum.
This national network also provides a key function in supporting the rapid response to major emerging patient safety issues communicated to providers and commissioners through National Patient Safety Alerts or other formal routes. The network enables the national patient safety team to ensure safety leads across the NHS have an opportunity to hear directly about the issue, have an opportunity to ask questions and share experiences, and understand how they can support their organisation to take local actions that may be required to keep patients safe.
Patient Safety Specialists have also been identified in each NHS regional team. Working closely with the national team, these regional specialists have developed further networks to offer peer-to-peer support and opportunities to share learning and good practice at a regional level.
National priorities for the Patient Safety Specialists
The Patient Safety Specialists have been asked to prioritise the local implementation of the following areas from the NHS patient safety strategy:
- Just culture
- Supporting their organisation’s systems for planning and coordinating the actions required by National Patient Safety Alerts
- Improving quality of incident reporting
- Supporting their organisation’s transition from the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) and Strategic Executive Information System (StEIS) to the new Learn from patient safety events (LFPSE) service for recording patient safety events
- Involvement in local implementation of the Patient Safety Incident Response Framework, once launched in 2022
- Supporting local implementation of the Framework for Involving Patients in Patient Safety
- Patient safety education and training
- National patient safety improvement programmes
- COVID-19 recovery planning
Supporting organisations to identify Patient Safety Specialist(s)
Organisations yet to identify Patient Safety Specialists, or that wish to replace or add additional specialists, should follow the process below.
The relevant executive director with responsibility for patient safety should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining whether the new Patient Safety Specialist is the first person their organisation has identified for this post, is replacing someone who is currently in post, or being appointed in addition to existing Patient Safety Specialists.
The email should provide name, email and contact number for the person they are identifying, as well as, where appropriate, those of the person they are replacing. They will also need to confirm that the Identifying Patient Safety Specialists document has been considered in this process. It will also be helpful if they can include the current job title and pay band of any new Patient Safety Specialists, on the understanding that this information will not be shared more widely.
The Identifying Patient Safety Specialists document is designed to support NHS organisations in identifying individuals with the right skills and experience to take on the role as a Patient Safety Specialist. The document outlines the purpose of Patient Safety Specialists, the key requirements of the role, and how we expect them to work in their own organisation, as well as with local, regional and national partners.