Loughborough academic’s book aimed at improving patient safety in hospitals

Loughborough University academic Dr Patrick Waterson has produced a book on the culture of patient safety in hospitals which he hopes will become an important resource for patient safety researchers, NHS managers and health care professionals.

Called ‘Patient Safety Culture – Theory, Methods and Application’,* the book contains 18 chapters by 36 of the world’s leading authorities on an issue which has been increasingly in the headlines following the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal and the publication of the Francis Report.

Dr Waterson, Reader in Human Factors and Complex Systems in the Design School, realised in 2012 that there was a gap in the market for the book.

“There were very few resources or collections available covering safety culture as it applies to healthcare,” he said.

Dr Waterson says the term ‘safety culture’ grew out of a number of high profile disasters during the period 1970 to 2000, such as the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear accidents (1979 and 1986).

Patient safety culture research is only 15 years old and, while we have come a long way in that time, Dr Waterson says ‘there is still a long way to go’ before experts agree on an accurate way of measuring it.

He added: “Error and accident rates in hospitals are similar across the world.

“The UK is no more or less safe than the USA, or Europe.

“But the problem is the accuracy of the measuring tools we have. The tools we have don’t allow us to attack that central question.

“We have still got a long way to go before we can gain an accurate picture.

“One of the problems is that every safety-critical system is complex. Nuclear power plants are complex, as are oil and gas installations, but hospitals represent some of the most complex, sophisticated and variable socio-technical systems in existence.

“It’s possible to find wards in the same hospitals that have a different safety culture. It doesn’t mean one is more or less safe than another, but there is probably something else going on.

“The leadership style may be different, the nursing staff may be different, the doctors may be working as a team, or less as a team.

“One in 10 people who go into hospital suffer an adverse event, everything from picking up an infection to dying as a result of human error. That’s quite a major statistic.”

Researchers have been asking vital questions in recent years. Like, how safe are hospitals?; Why do some hospitals have higher rates of accidents and errors involving patients?; How can hospitals improve their safety culture and minimise harm to patients?

Dr Waterson says more and more hospitals and healthcare managers are trying to understand the safety culture in their organisation so they can implement strategies to improve patient safety.

The book, he says, represents one way forward and will hopefully contribute to efforts to drive down the high accident and error rates common in healthcare.

*Patient Safety Culture – Theory, Methods and Application. Edited by Dr Patrick Waterson. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, Wey Court East, Union Road, Farnham, Surrey. £67.50 (444 pages).

More details available from: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409448143

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