Making the safety of patients everyone's highest priority


What is patient safety?

It is generally accepted that hospital inpatients suffers from a wide range of failures in their care that can lead to harm and death. This can range from hospital associated infections, to failure to rescue deteriorating patients; patient suffering from drug errors to wrong site surgery; patients failing or developing pressure sores. It is a worldwide problem.

There were 12 million admissions to NHS Acute Trusts in 2006/07, with estimates suggesting that one in ten patients’ experience an adverse event that puts their health at risk. It is thought that up to 50% of these adverse events are avoidable.

What is the campaign?

  • The Patient Safety First Campaign seeks to reduce harm to patients by changing practise in specific areas, based on existing evidence
  • This Campaign is not Government led. The difference is in how it is led 'by the service, for the service'
  • It is led by a team of dedicated clinicians and managers from across England, all experienced in improving patient safety in their own field
  • The Patient Safety First Campaign's cause is:
    'To make the safety of patients everyone's highest priority'
  • The Patient Safety First Campaign's aim is:
    'No avoidable death, no avoidable harm

Who is behind this campaign?

Our three partners are joint sponsors: the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), and The Health Foundation.

Who is leading this campaign?

The campaign is being led by Stephen Ramsden OBE Campaign Director.

He has been awarded the OBE for his services to health care and is also the Chief Executive Luton and Dunstable Hospital, and has led on patient safety over a number of years.

Stephen Ramsden is supported in the campaign by a nationwide specialist team of NHS staff clinicians and managers, all of whom share a passion for patient safety and have a range of expertise in patient safety, improvement and/or the intervention areas.

In addition, a campaign office has been established developing and supporting the delivery of the campaign. Find out who is in the core team.

How will the Campaign aim be achieved?

  • By reducing harm through changing practise in specific focused areas by using interventions (see below)
  • The Campaign is promoting these interventions to the NHS staff that are responsible for patient care. All clinical interventions are evidence based, to furnish NHS staff with the proven methods, that when adopted consistently, are known to reduce avoidable harm to patients.
  • The Campaign will help by providing initial resources for individuals and teams to help begin to implement interventions in their own Trusts, via a dedicated website and face-to-face local support.
  • The Campaign will also aim to influence other key organisations such as Royal Colleges, professional organisations, and regulatory bodies to adopt the campaign cause.
  • It will put people in contact with others who have successfully made improvements for patient safety
  • Gaining board support is vital to encourage the implementation of the interventions within Trusts.

What are interventions?

An intervention is any action introduced into a patient’s care management in order to change behaviour or practise

In relation to the Campaign, the chosen interventions are recognised, well tested and evidence-based actions that improve patient safety.

What are the Campaign interventions being focused on initially?

The clinical interventions at the heart of the campaign initially have been chosen because:

  • We know that the issues they are designed to deal with are a major source of harm in hospitals
  • There is already a published evidence base and learning from other countries and UK organisations on how to improve practice in these areas
  • Most trusts will already be doing some work in these areas: it is core business
  • Improvement should be relatively easy to introduce and measure

The Campaign involves clinical and leadership interventions:

  1. Leadership for safety – getting Boards fully engaged with patient safety with the aim of demonstrating that it is their highest priority

    The aim is to ensure a leadership culture at Board level which promotes quality and patient safety and provides an environment where continuous improvement in harm reduction becomes routine throughout the organisation.
  2. Reducing harm from deterioration

    The aim is to reduce in-hospital cardiac arrest and mortality rate through earlier recognition and treatment of the deteriorating patient
  3. Reducing harm in critical care (central line and ventilator care bundles)

    The aim is to improve the care of patients receiving critical care through the reliable application of care bundles.
  4. Reducing harm in perioperative care, (this includes prevention of surgical site infection and World Health Organisation’s Safe Surgery Checklist)

    The aim is to improve care for adult patients undergoing elective surgical procedures in the hospital setting.
  5. Reducing harm from high-risk medicines (this includes anticoagulants, injectable sedatives, opiates, and insulin)

    The aim is to prevent harm from high-risk medicines.

Are there more interventions?

There are four other important areas for the safety of patients that have been identified by many staff in the service, highlighted during national workshops held throughout April 2008. The campaign team agreed that these areas should be developed and are leading work on them.

These suggested further interventions listed below are likely to be included in the campaign at a later stage:


  • Reducing harm from falls
  • Reducing harm from Venous Thrombo-Embolism (VTE)
  • The “Surviving Sepsis” bundles
  • Reducing harm from peripheral lines.

Where will this campaign be active?

The cause and aim are generic to all sectors and non acute organisations are encouraged to join and develop how this campaign will work for them with regard to intervention and measurements.

Although the interventions being promoted have already been introduced and tested in acute care, and most are acute care based, some are also relevant to primary care and have the potential to be adapted to other healthcare settings.

If you work in primary care, the ambulance services or mental health trust you can help us develop practise to improve patient safety and we are working with the three national sponsors – NPSA, NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and The Health Foundation to ensure interventions are developed and implemented in these sectors.

¹ Brennan et al 1991, Wilson et al 1995, Vincent et al 2001

Sponsored by

Sponsored by: National Patient Safety Agency Sponsored by: Institute for Innovation and Improvement Sponsored by: The Health Foundation