What is a safety huddle?


‘What’s a safety huddle?’ asked one of our housekeepers one morning when she was asked to attend. This was the most asked question in the beginning when this was being introduced, and now it is a case of ‘come on, its safety huddle time!’.

It has been 9 weeks since we introduced safety huddles into our daily practice, and it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

I am Assistant Ward Manager of a 19 bedded female acute psychiatric ward, and also the Clinical Patient Safety Lead for the Monitoring and Measuring of Safety Project in which Bradford District Care Foundation Trust is part of.

In the beginning, I attended one of the Improvement Academy events in November 2015 and one of the things that stood out to me was the Safety Huddles. My thoughts were that this would be something that my team could possibly adopt as we already did something similar, take ownership of and utilise well in order to reduce risk incidents and promote awareness of patient safety.

Pitching the idea to staff of what the safety huddle was and how we would do it was the easy part, it was the ‘why’ part which took a little longer. I wanted staff understand the rationale as to why it was important to huddle, what it meant by doing this and most importantly to own it.

We said we worked as a team but did we really? Did we know everyone’s name and role who we were working with? Were we all on the same page as to why risk and safety is key? What could be done about the number of incidents that were happening? What needed to change and why?.

Communication was key to this! Everyone who works on the ward needed to be included in the huddle, we are a team…it’s that simple! And now from housekeepers and ward admin, to consultants and senior managers are involved in it, and the feedback has been great! We have house keepers telling us that they have learnt more in the last few weeks about our patient’s safety issues than what she has in the last 8 years of working here. And, as I sit here writing this, I have one of our Consultant Psychiatrists sat next to me telling me that he thinks ‘the safety huddles are great, so simple but yet so effective’. Momentum is great for the huddles at the moment, other wards within the trust want to adopt the safety huddle, our ward staff are wanting these to continue and not stop.

As a final point, we observed that whilst we had a reduction in incidents by half, the incidents that did happen were happening on an afternoon. It was put the team about how we could address this and they suggested that by adding a second huddle in the afternoon we could reduce this further and focus on patient safety remains consistent throughout the day, and for me that speaks volumes.