Patient Safety Zone

About patient safety

Introducing multi-disciplinary information and resources to help you understand more about patient safety and your contribution to making care safer.

Introduction to Patient Safety
Hand washing hygiene

Patient safety is freedom from healthcare-associated, preventable harm. A simple explanation is that 'when things go right, nothing bad happens.'

What is Patient Safety?

Patient safety is freedom from healthcare-associated, preventable harm. A simple explanation is that 'when things go right, nothing bad happens.' To maintain or improve patient safety, error has to be prevented, rectified or at least minimised.

Why is it a problem?

It is now widely accepted that about 10% of all patients admitted to hospital will be unintentionally harmed in some way.  To put that into context: there are more deaths annually as a result of health care than from road accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Evidence shows that all health care workers make errors and that levels of harm are comparable in all settings. Recent financial estimates suggest that adverse events cost the UK £2 billion in 2000 in extra hospital days alone and £400 million in paid negligence claims.  Other costs, such as suffering of patients, their families and the health care workers involved, are incalculable.

The patient safety paradox

Health care aims to preserve life, treat disease and alleviate suffering - an aim seemingly synonymous with 'safety'.  This aim is central to the history and culture of the caring professions and is expressed through maxims such as 'first do no harm'. However, over the last two decades it has become increasingly and undeniably clear that patients are harmed directly and indirectly through their contact with health care.

A number of high-profile cases have been widely reported in the media and helped to focus the attention of the public, politicians and health care workers on the scale of the patient safety problem. Patient safety has become a national and international priority. NHS Scotland is the first health service in the world to adopt a national approach to improving patient safety.

Scottish Patient Safety Programme

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme  is a unique national initiative that aims to improve the safety and reliability of healthcare and reduce avoidable harm, whenever care is delivered.

It includes safety improvement programmes for acute adult, HAI, maternity & children, medicines, mental health and primary care.

  • Scottish Patient Safety Programme ( Link)
Patient Safety PDF's

Download these patient safety information documents:

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