Background and rationale for ThinkSAFE

Background to ThinkSAFE

It is estimated that about one in ten patients (10%) are harmed by the care they receive in hospital.  This is the same in all healthcare systems across the world, including the NHS in the United Kingdom.  Improving patient safety is therefore a worldwide imperative and has led to the development of many initiatives aiming to minimise patients' risk of harm when in hospital.  This includes an international emphasis on patient involvement.  Here in the UK, actively involving patients, families and carers for safer healthcare is a key recommendation of recent reviews of patient safety in the NHS by FrancisKeogh and Berwick.

Our research has shown that while patients, and those close to them, are willing to help improve patient safety, they are not always sure about what they should look out for, or what sorts of things they can do to help.  ThinkSAFE provides the knowledge, skills, support and opportunity that patients, families and carers need to take an active role in keeping patients safe in hospital.

Rationale for ThinkSAFE

People often don't feel quite themselves when they are unwell and, understandably, are also likely to be pre-occupied with getting better.  This can make it more difficult for them to keep on top of what is happening to them and to remember to ask questions they have about their care.  ThinkSAFE provides a number of tips and tools that have been specifically developed to enable people to stay informed and involved in their healthcare when they are in hospital.   

When you are a patient in hospital, it is also common to feel much more vulnerable than usual.  This can make people feel less confident about asking questions or raising concerns about their safety.   Hospitals can be busy places and it is easy to convince yourself that your questions are not important enough to bother staff with.  Staff understand your feelings but really do welcome your questions and queries because your safety is their priority.  ThinkSAFE encourages patients to be partners in their care, and to work together with healthcare staff to help keep them safe in hospital. 

Development of ThinkSAFE

A core aim of ThinkSAFE is to enable patients and healthcare staff to work together, collaboratively, to ensure the safety of patients in hospital.  ThinkSAFE is underpinned by this philosophy.  The ThinkSAFE approach and resources were subsequently developed in close collaboration with patients, their relatives and carers, and frontline healthcare staff from five NHS hospitals across the northern region of England.   ThinkSAFE is therefore grounded in, and fully informed by, their mutual experience and expertise of giving and receiving healthcare.

We also consulted with expert patients and champions from regional patient organisations (e.g. the former LINk network and North East Strategic Health Authority Public, Community & Patient Engagement group; and the Patients For Patient Safety network), and sought guidance from national organisations with expertise in patient safety, health and safety, ergonomics and service development (e.g. former NPSA, the Health & Safety Executive).  We looked at other local, national and international patient safety intitiatives for examples of best practice, and systematically reviewed research evidence about how best to support both patients and staff in this new way of working together.  ThinkSAFE is further informed by this best practice and robust evidence-base.

For more information about ThinkSAFE please email us : thinksafe@newcastle.ac.uk or visit our Newcastle University project page