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Design for Patient Safety Report

Reference number
Issue date01 January 2003

This report identifies opportunities to use design to improve patient safety in the NHS. It describes the safety challenge facing the NHS and outlines a design-led approach to reducing errors and accidents. In addition, it sets out a series of research-based recommendations and actions. The report also contains a government response to the research findings.

The key issues concerned with developing knowledge, systems and processes to provide a basis for effective design decision-making.

The main conclusions of the study were that:

  • The NHS is out of step with modern thinking and practice with regard to design. 
  • There was cause to question the design of medical devices, products, packaging and information, and the way that the NHS uses design.
  • Single design initiatives must be seen in the context of the ‘big picture’ of the healthcare system and the way it impacts on patient safety and risk management.
  • The NHS should aim to achieve ‘big picture’ thinking as soon as possible.

The recommendations and suggested projects described in the report provide a framework to achieve a systems-based, user-centred approach to healthcare design for the NHS, where the opportunity for errors can be designed out before accidents occur.

The report is available from the Department of Health.