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Human factors

Improving patient safety through understanding and implementation of human factors


Over 1.3 million people work in the NHS, treating more than a million patients a day. We need to ensure that our staff are equipped with the underlying principles that enable them to be flexible enough and resilient and resilient enough to deliver high quality care, for the safety of our patients. Having an understanding of human factors is one way to address this.

Human factors principles aim to understand the ‘fit’ between an employee, their equipment and the surrounding environment, which can include learning styles, behaviours and values, leadership, teamwork, the design of equipment and processes, communication and organisational culture. Through a better understanding of these principles, changes can be made that result in a reduction of human error and higher quality care and patient safety.

We worked with our partners, to explore how human factors practices and principles can be an integral part of all education and training – providing everyone with the knowledge and skills to recognise and respond to human factors risks.  This information was included in the Commission on Education and Training for Patient Safety Report.

The Commission felt strongly that the principles of Human Factors and Professionalism should be embedded into training as outlined in one of their recommendations.  The Learning to be Safer Programme implementation plan has recommended that Human Factors and Culture are to be one of the programme workstreams going forward.

Gina’s story

Based on real events, Doncaster Royal Infirmary has created the film Gina’s Story. The film demonstrates how human factors errors can have serious implications for patient safety and how simple process changes can make a big difference.

We want to hear from you

We are continually exploring how human factors can be integrated at work and embedded across all education and training, which is why we want to hear about your experiences. Please e-mail us at HEE.patientsafety@nhs.net  if you would like to showcase your case study.

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