John ClarksonLed by Professor John Clarkson of the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Design Centre, this theme brings design principles into complex health and social care systems with many immediate applications, particularly in the light of the Francis Report.

Around 10% of hospital admissions are subject to medical error leading to both personal harm and wasted resource (conservatively estimated at £2billion/year in the UK). The actual rates of harm have not been clearly identified (either in hospitals or community services) and measured, and hence the NHS’s record on patient safety is not well defined. However, it is estimated that the harm rate now is similar to that at the turn of the century (2000) when the first modern estimates were made. Patient safety has been in policy for many years but it really started to become important after An Organization with a Memory (Department of Health 2000) and Building a Safer NHS for Patients (Department of Health 2004). The foundation for improvement in these documents was based on learning from near misses and patient harm. The theme’s aim is to go beyond this reactive approach to safety improvement and apply the best knowledge of design and human factors to prevent harm occurring in the first place.

The work of this theme cuts across all of the other themes in the CLAHRC and maps directly onto the Patient Safety Collaborative in the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN). The vision is to have a health service that is supported to be proactive and generative using design approaches, methods and tools to provide services that meet or exceed the standards set for safety and for the services to be sustainable. The theme aims to produce a set of tools that will enable this vision to be realised and for these tools to be in regular use in NHS organisations across the region.

The applied research and implementation (EAHSN) projects support the following objectives:

  • Research the form of a safety management framework needed to embed good systems design processes into the healthcare economy.
  • Develop and deliver a health economics research and implementation capacity in relation to systems approaches to healthcare improvement.
  • Develop and deliver a human factors research and implementation capacity in relation to systems approaches to healthcare improvement.
  • Further research systems design approaches to patient-centric care based on modelling and simulation, with a focus on patient pathways.
  • Further research on risk-based design approaches to be compatible with the framework.
  • Embody the research findings in tools that facilitate good systems design by medical professionals, healthcare managers and patient or their representatives, into the region.