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Behaviour study aims to reduce NHS errors

University professor has teamed up with Health Education England to explore ways to improve patient safety

A university academic hopes to help the NHS improve patient safety by focusing on human behaviour, how staff interact with each other, and the factors that affect decision making.

Sue Hignett, professor of healthcare ergonomics and patient safety at Loughborough University’s design school, has signed up to work with Health Education England (HEE).

The announcement comes as it was revealed that one in 10 people in healthcare settings experience some form of harm, from trips and falls to surgery errors and incorrect drug prescription.

Using Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) professor Hignett will meet with healthcare staff across England to understand the pressures they face in the highly unpredictable working environment in which they find themselves.

The findings of her study will be published in a HEE report on Learning to be Safer.

She said: ‘HFE is already the favoured design approach across many safety critical industries, including aviation, rail and nuclear.

‘There are some pockets of really good practice within the NHS, but the changing nature of the organisation means this good practice is hard to embed and sustain.

'By taking this approach we can design out risk by understanding human behaviour and adjusting the systems around that, whether that’s improving communications and IT infrastructures, or redesigning services, physical environments and equipment.'

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