The NHS Patient Safety Strategy

This strategy describes how the NHS will continuously improve patient safety, building on the foundations of a safer culture and safer systems.


Patient safety is about maximising the things that go right and minimising the things that go wrong. It is integral to the NHS’ definition of quality in healthcare, alongside effectiveness and patient experience.

This strategy sets out what the NHS will do to achieve its vision to continuously improve patient safety.

It is human to make mistakes so we, the NHS, need to continuously reduce the potential for error by learning and acting when things go wrong. In this spirit, we will report progress against this strategy annually and update it as needed.

Annual progress report for the NHS Patient Safety Strategy

As stated in the strategy, we have committed to publishing a report each year providing an update on the progress we have made against each of the strategy’s workstreams.

Annual progress report for the NHS Patient Safety Strategy: year one – published September 2020

Strategy implementation updates

We are working with our partners to develop the new patient safety initiatives the strategy introduced. We will provide brief updates below to show progress:

  • Patient Safety Specialists – September 2020, we have launched the patient safety specialists initiative that will see NHS organisations identifying at least one member of staff to the role of their patient safety specialist, to oversee and support patient safety activities across their organisation. The Identifying patient safety specialists document is now available and trusts have until the end of November 2020 to identify their patient safety specialist to us.
  • Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF) – 10 March 2020, we have published a new Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF) webpage, including details of our work with a small number of early adopters who are testing an introductory version of the framework. The PSIRF is being developed to replace the current Serious Incident Framework with updated guidance on how NHS organisations should respond to patient safety incidents, and how and when a patient safety investigation should be conducted. This testing phase will be used to inform the creation of a final version of the PSIRF which we anticipate will be published in Spring 2021.
  • Patient safety partners – 10 March 2020, we have launched a consultation on our draft ‘Framework for involving patients in patient safety’. Following the consultation, a final version of the framework will be published providing guidance on how the NHS can involve patients and their carers in their own safety; as well as being partners, alongside staff, in improving patient safety in NHS organisations. You can view the draft framework on the consultation webpage and access the consultation questions. This consultation has been extended until 18 October 2020.
  • National Patient Safety Alerts –  the first National Patient Safety Alert was issued by our national patient safety team in November 2019 following its accreditation to issue the new types of alerts. All national bodies that issue alerts are going through a process of accreditation to issue National Patient Safety Alerts to ensure they meet a set criteria to improve their effectiveness and support providers to better implement the required actions. In March 2020 the MHRA became the second national body to be accredited.
  • Patient Safety Syllabus – 24 January 2020, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), in collaboration with us and Health Education England, published the first iteration of the first National patient safety syllabus. The syllabus will underpin the development of patient safety curricula for all NHS staff. AoMRC are now considering revisions based on the comments it receives from its call for feedback. You can view the current iteration of the syllabus on the AoMRC website.

Key components of the strategy

Aidan Fowler, National Director of Patient Safety, introduces the NHS Patient Safety Strategy.

A key principle of the NHS Patient Safety Strategy is continuous improvement. Hugh McCaughey, National Director of Improvement, discusses the relationship between Quality Improvement and patient safety.

Dr Suzette Woodward, director of the Sign up to Safety Campaign that ran from 2014 to 2019, describes the equally important behaviours of kindness and civility that support patient safety.

There is a clear interest in widening patient safety thinking beyond things that go wrong. Dr Suzette Woodward, describes the concept of Safety II and the importance of also looking at why things routinely go right in healthcare.

The National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) has been at the heart of NHS patient safety insight since 2004, but it uses outdated technology, Lucie Musset, product owner for a new digital system to replace the NRLS describes what it will do and how it will benefit patient safety.

Developing the strategy

Between December 2018 and February 2019 we held a consultation on our original set of ideas for a national patient safety strategy for the NHS.

We received 527 contributions from organisations and individuals (staff, patients and carers), and attended stakeholder meetings and engagement events. We also held workshops with staff, patients and senior leaders across the country and hosted online discussions. See Annex 1 above for a summary of the results of the consultation.

You can also view our original proposals and the online consultation questions in our consultation discussion document.

NHS patient safety strategy oversight committee

Contact us

If you would like further information about the NHS Patient Safety Strategy, or have any questions, please email