Patients continue to die and be harmed by the failure to learn from unsafe care


  • 7th April 2022

(London, UK, 7 April 2022) – Today the charity Patient Safety Learning has published a new report, ‘Mind the implementation gap: The persistence of avoidable harm in the NHS’.

The report is an evidence-based summary of the failures over decades to translate learning into action and safety improvement. It highlights that avoidable unsafe care kills and harms thousands of people each year in the UK and costs the NHS billions of pounds for additional treatment, support, and compensatory costs. The report highlights how we fail to learn lessons from incidents of unsafe care and are not taking the action needed to prevent harm recurring.

The report focuses on six sources of patient safety insights and recommendations, ranging from inquiry reports into patient safety scandals, such as the recent Ockenden report into maternal and neonatal harm at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, to the findings of Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths reports. It calls on the Government, parliamentarians, and NHS leaders to take action to address the underlying causes of avoidable harm in healthcare and proposes recommendations in each policy area. Patient Safety Learning is calling for system-wide action in healthcare to transform our approach to learning and safety improvement.

Helen Hughes, Chief Executive of Patient Safety Learning, said:

“Today’s report highlights the all too frequent examples of where healthcare organisations fail to learn lessons from incidents of unsafe care and not taking the action needed to prevent future harm. Time and time again there is a lack of action and coordination in responding to recommendations, an absence of systems to share learning and a lack of commitment to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of safety recommendations.”

“This is a shocking conclusion that is an affront to all those patients and families who have been assured that ‘lessons have been learned’ and ‘action will be taken to prevent future avoidable harm to others’. The healthcare system needs to understand and address the barriers for implementing recommendations, not just continually repeat them. Hope is not a strategy.”

This report has been published as part of the Safety for All Campaign, which calls for improvements in, and between, patient and healthcare worker safety to prevent safety incidents and deliver better outcomes for all. The campaign is supported by Patient Safety Learning and the Safer Healthcare and Biosafety Network.[1] [2]

Notes to editors

  1. Patient Safety Learning is a charity and independent voice for patient safety. Our vision is to help create a world where patients are free from avoidable harm. We believe that urgent system-wide change is needed, with the healthcare system designed with safety at its core. We must mitigate the risk of harm, so that healthcare is safe for patients and for the staff who work within it.
  2. Safer Healthcare and Biosafety Network an independent forum focused on improving healthcare worker and patient safety and has been in existence more than 20 years. It is made up of clinicians, professional associations, trades unions and employers, manufacturers and government agencies with the shared objective to improve occupational health and safety and patient safety in healthcare. COVID-19 pandemic has provided a stark reminder of the vital role healthcare professionals play in providing care to those in our society who need it most and this was recognized in the WHO Patient Safety Day in September 2020: only when healthcare workers are safe can patients be safe. In 2020, the Network launched a campaign called ‘Safety for All’ to improve practice in, and between, patient and healthcare worker safety to prevent safety incidents and deliver better outcomes for all.

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