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In the USA it is estimated that at least 44,000, and perhaps as many as 98,000 die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. Even using the lower estimate these deaths exceed those attributed to breast cancer, AIDS and motor vehicle accidents. As many as half of these adverse events are judged to be avoidable. Reducing this disturbing toll of human lives requires a rethink of the approach towards medical safety.
A study undertaken by research teams at the Engineering Design Centre (EDC) University of Cambridge, the Robens Centre for Health Ergonomics at the University of Surrey, the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre at the Royal College of Art has led to the publication of a report which points the way to improving patient safety and will contribute significantly to improving the quality of care for NHS patients. The study identified how the effective use of design could help to reduce medical accidents.
The first part of this report sets out the safety challenge that needs to be addressed and outlines a new design-led approach to reducing the incidence of error and accidents across the NHS. As a result of the work, a series of research-based recommendations and actions have been submitted to the Department of Health to help put this approach into practice.
Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, in his Foreword to the report comments:
"Properly addressed, improvements in patient safety will contribute significantly to improving the quality of care for NHS patients. Reduction in errors will also free up resources at present used to cope with the consequences of those errors. Implementing the thinking set out in this report could go a long way to help achieve that goal. If the NHS can embrace the broad systems approach set out in the following pages, we would undoubtedly save lives."
The report "Design for patient safety
- a system-wide design-led approach to tackling patient safety in the NHS" was jointly commissioned
by the Department of Health and the Design Council. Beautifully presented, with illustrations relating to the
subject matter (as shown above), the Report is eminently readable and available from the Design Council or
Department of Health.
For further information, please contact Dr John Clarkson, Dr James Ward, or Dr Jerome Jarrett at the Engineering Design Centre.
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