The Patient Safety Specialist role: a formative evaluation

Background

The role of Patient Safety Specialist was introduced by the NHS in England in 2019, as part of wider plans designed to help improve patient safety. There are currently several hundred Specialists in place. All NHS organisations in England are required to identify at least one Patient Safety Specialist, and they will play a key role in delivering the NHS Patient Safety Strategy.

Our objective is to build a detailed understanding of the background to the Patient Safety Specialist role and its implementation to date. We aim to offer insights into the challenges and opportunities associated with delivering improvement though a designated role like the Patient Safety Specialist.

Our study also aims to highlight ways to support Patient Safety Specialists and provide recommendations to NHS England about future policy and strategy around their role.

Approach

In this study, we are seeking to build an understanding of the role of Patient Safety Specialist both in theory and in practice. As we evaluate the role, we will speak to people involved in developing, managing and supporting the Patient Safety Specialist programme as well as Patient Safety Specialists themselves.

The study will include a survey distributed to all Patient Safety Specialists across England, and we will examine more closely the work of a selection of Patient Safety Specialists and those they work closely with, sampled to cover a range of contextual and other influences which are likely to affect their work.

In addition to the survey and qualitative interviews, we will analyse policy documents, carry out focus groups and observe relevant meetings. At the end of the study we will organise a workshop to refine our findings in dialogue with Patient Safety Specialists and other stakeholders.

Funding and ethics

This study is funded by The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute (THIS Institute), an independent research institute co-created by the University of Cambridge and The Health Foundation (an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK).