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Patient Safety

Patient safety is the guiding principle of all who serve in the NHS – the first and most important lesson staff should learn is how to act safely. Our work on education and training for patient safety looks at how Health Education England can best support individuals and the system as a whole to deliver this.

The Commission on Education and Training for Patient Safety published its report Improving Safety Through Education and Training in 2016. Since then Health Education England (HEE) has been delivering against the recommendations within the report nationally, regionally and in collaboration with partners. This has set a firm grounding for the next phase of educational development required to deliver the NHS Patient Safety Strategy.  


Patient Safety Repository: In Safe Hands

In Safe Hands is our new patient safety resource, it has been produced in response to the recommendations made in the 2016 report ‘Improving Safety Through Education & Training’.

This is a constantly evolving resource where the content will be updated and added to as work in patient safety is progressed. We invite the submission of additional materials in respect education, training and development activities in healthcare to support patient safety to complement that already gathered.



NHS Patient Safety Strategy

In July 2019 the NHS Patient Safety Strategy was launched, HEE contributing to the education and training section in collaboration with NHS Improvement. Outlined in the strategy is the need for better training for all NHS staff in the identification, proactive management and reporting of patient safety incidents.

The strategy indicates that an improved emphasis on safety can; save patient lives, improve quality of care, enhance staff working practices, and save money for the NHS.

Learn more about the NHS Patient Safety Strategy 


Patient Safety Syllabus

A major strand of the new NHS Patient Safety Strategy involves HEE developing the first-ever system-wide Patient Safety Syllabus which we will work with education providers to integrate within existing and new educational programmes for NHS staff.

This approach aims to develop a new paradigm in patient safety, making education available to all staff following a consistent syllabus but delivered in different ways according to the needs of staff.

As a key part of this work, HEE intends to design and deliver an e-learning programme, available to all staff, in the Foundations of Patient Safety. The programme is set to be available by April 2021.


The Commission on Education and Training for Patient Safety

In 2016 the independent Commission on Education and Training for Patient Safety – supported by academic partner Imperial College – was established by HEE to look at the future of education and training for patient safety in the NHS over the next 10 years. Its resulting publication, Improving Safety through Education and Training was the first report to focus on how education and training interventions can actively improve the safety of patients.

HEE published a Strategic Response to Improving Safety through Education and Training report (July 2019) outlining the wide-ranging initiatives led by HEE to improve patient safety through education and training. NHS service providers, in partnership with HEE local offices, have and will continue to implement education, training and development initiatives to promote safe clinical practice across health and care services, while work is taking place across the strategic bodies to ensure awareness of patient safety issues is developed throughout the workforce. 

Read the Strategic Response to Improving Safety Through Education and Training – July 2019


The Commission made 12 recommendations to HEE, and the wider system, including to:

  1. Ensure learning from patient safety data and good practice.
  2. Develop and use a common language to describe all elements of quality improvement science and human factors with respect to patient safety.
  3. Ensure robust evaluation of education and training for patient safety.
  4. Engage patients, family members, carers and the public in the design and delivery of education and training for patient safety.
  5. Supporting the duty of candour is vital and there must be high quality educational training packages available.
  6. The learning environment must support all learners and staff to raise and respond to concerns about patient safety.
  7. The content of mandatory training for patient safety needs to be coherent across the NHS.
  8. All NHS leaders need patient safety training so they can have the knowledge and tools to drive change and improvement.
  9. Education and training must support the delivery of more integrated ‘joined up’ care.
  10. Ensure increased opportunities for inter-professional learning.
  11. Principles of human factors and professionalism must be embedded across education and training.
  12. Ensure staff have the skills to identify and manage potential risks.


Progress to date

We have accepted all 12 recommendations and working in partnership with key organisations across all levels in the system, are providing a leadership role in taking them forward.

Our implementation plan and progress report, available to view below, set out how the recommendations will be delivered and provides an update on the actions. Progress so far includes:

  • Working with other Arms’ Length Bodies and system partners to ensure that our work to deliver high quality patient safety training and encourage safer patient care is nationally aligned;
  • holding a national conference to demonstrate the impact of high quality education and training on the delivery of patient-centred care and better outcomes for patients;
  • publishing our multi-professional HEE Quality Framework and
  • establishing senior leadership throughout our local areas to lead how we implement these recommendations across our own organisation.

The core implementation will take place until the end of 2018.