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National Patient Safety Agency

NPSA awarded for designing safer NHS

21 October 2008


The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has received international acclaim for its use of design in improving patient safety in the NHS.


The NHS-body was a winner in the public sector category at the Design Management Europe Awards, an annual ceremony that celebrates organisations across Europe for their design management practices.


The NPSA received the award for its Design for patient safety initiative, which has backing from the Department of Health and the Design Council.


Speaking of the result, Patricia Young, Design Specialist at the National Patient Safety Agency said:


“Receiving this award is a huge compliment as it recognises the NPSA’s ongoing commitment in leading and facilitating improved design practices in the NHS in order to make it a safer place for its workers and patients.


“Our Design for patient safety initiative acknowledges that the NHS, like any other business, is susceptible to making mistakes, especially given the size of its workforce and the nature of the day-to-day work of its frontline healthcare staff. Although errors will always occur, our initiative is about minimising avoidable risks and errors by working towards delivering products, services, processes and environments that are intuitive, simple to understand and use, convenient, comfortable and supportive, and less likely to lead to errors.


“If our principles are adopted effectively by all stakeholders, including the healthcare staff, patients and relevant experts, we believe that there will be significant improvements in patient safety, quality of care and efficiency.”


The NPSA showcased the Hillingdon Hospital single room pilot ward as a case study of its design initiative. For this a new pilot hospital is being built by Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust, consisting of 24 single-occupancy en suite bedrooms. Using three different bedroom designs the pilot will test the effect that single-bed wards have on staff and patients, such as ease of observation (both staff to patients and patients to staff), walking distance and the provision and location of support facilities. The pilot will also be evaluated alongside other NHS hospitals for its clinical outcomes, such as infection rates and medical errors, patient and nurse satisfaction and its cost-effectiveness.


Jacqueline Walker, Deputy Director of Nursing at Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust said:


“This is an exciting time for the staff at the Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust. Testing the single occupancy facility will provide valuable information to staff and patients in our considerations for rebuilding the Hillingdon Hospital to provide 100% single room accommodation. Our staff are keen to support improved patient safety and quality of care and we are examining new ways of working to support efficiency within this new environment.”


The DME ceremony was held in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on Monday 13 October.


The NPSA is the only organisation in the event’s history to have won awards in two consecutive years. Last year the NPSA received an honourable mention for its design projects which included recommendations on the design of ambulances, patient wristbands and the 2222 number; the standardised crash-call number that NHS hospital workers dial for emergency teams when patients experience cardiac arrest.


Next month the NPSA will be sponsoring this year’s Building better healthcare awards (13 November) as well as judging entries in the design category.


More information on the Hillingdon Hospital single room pilot ward.


More information about the DME Awards.


More information about the Building better healthcare awards on 13 November 2008.



Notes for editors:


Media enquiries to Paul Cooney in the NPSA Press Office on 020 7927 9351 or paul.cooney@npsa.nhs.uk.


If you would like to view copies of the NPSA’s DME award entry (posters in pdf format), please call Paul Cooney on 020 7927 9351 or email paul.cooney@npsa.nhs.uk.


Other projects within the Design for patient safety initiative, for which the NPSA received its DME award, include its series of Design for patient safety guides, which detail recommendations on standardising medication by making packaging and labelling easier to recognise and differentiate from one another, in order to minimise errors and ensure safer practice. So far the NPSA has published guides on the graphic design of medication packaging, future ambulances, the design of dispensed medicines, the design of the dispensing environment and the labelling and packaging of injectable medicines.


The National Patient Safety Agency is a Special Health Authority of the NHS. It encompasses three divisions; the National Research Ethics Service, the National Reporting and Learning Service and the National Clinical Assessment Service. Each has its own sphere of expertise to improve patient outcomes. The NPSA’s vision is to lead and contribute to improved, safe patient care by informing, supporting and influencing healthcare individuals and organisations. The National Reporting and Learning Service (formerly the Patient Safety Division) collates reports of patient safety incidents and analyses them to uncover themes and trends. It then works with healthcare staff to develop advice about local action that can be taken to reduce risk of reoccurrence.