Patients and Citizens – bringing something different to patient safety


As a nurse and someone who is passionate about the NHS, I attempted to read the book “from Ward to Whitehall” written by Julie Baily. We all know Julie helped to form an organisation; Cure the NHS, which successfully campaigned for a public inquiry into the failings at the hospital. The book was a starting point for this campaign and recounted the painful experiences of her mother and other being cared for within the hospital. To be honest I could not read it for long. It was too much for me. I could not really believe that the things that were written on those pages had happened, although I know they must have done.

I have wondered about this position ever since, why did I feel so disconnected to those words. Only more recently have I begun to realise that as a healthcare professional I see care delivery through my expert lens, everything is processed through my years of experience as a nurse.

Patients however have become experts by their experiences; they have a different lens.  They can give insight into learning about patient safety that may be hidden from professionals. They have unique knowledge and their involvement should not be limited to reviewing clinical safety systems that we create, such as asking them to observe their healthcare workers hand hygiene habits. They can offer us so much more. Of course they can play an active role in identification of safety breaches. But they should also be encouraged to act in partnership with us to develop safer systems in the future. Their contribution is valuable and its relevance unrivalled. 

Jane O’Hara and Ruthe Isden, in their recent thought paper, Identifying risks and monitoring safety: the role of patients and citizens(1) call for a deeper engagement with patients and citizens so they can assist in defining harm and be part of the debate about acceptable levels of risk in healthcare settings. As a Healthcare professional who is passionate about patient safety this chimes with me. I want to put patients at the heart of all that I do and this includes safety of care.

Reference: (1)  Jane O’Hara and Ruthe Isden (2013) Identifying risks and monitoring safety: the role of patients and citizens. Thought Paper, The Health Foundation, Inspiring Improvement