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Questions are the answer! Seven questions every board member should ask about patient safety

Reference number
Issue date01 June 2009

This joint National Reporting and Learning Service, NHS Confederation, and Appointments Commission factsheet sets out seven questions for NHS board members.


NHS boards play a key role in ensuring that care is given safely and risks are reduced. In answering the questions below they can identify gaps in their safety culture and work towards improving it. 


  1. Does everyone understand the importance of patient safety?
    Patient safety is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone needs to understand what it means for them.
  2. Do we really have an open and fair culture?
    Staff are less likely to report errors or raise safety concerns if they are punished or blamed. 
  3. Are we actively encouraging reporting of incidents?
    Organisations that report more incidents usually have a more effective safety culture. 
  4. Do we get the right information?
    Learning from all data sources provides a true reflection of where things are going wrong and what is needed to prevent minor incidents from becoming more serious. 
  5. Are we always open when things go wrong?
    Communicating effectively with patients and their carers is vital in dealing with errors or problems in their treatment. 
  6. Do we learn from patient safety incidents?
    A robust methodology should be in place to ensure incidents are thoroughly investigated so that all contributing factors are identified.
  7. Are we actively implementing national guidance and safety alerts?
    Resilient organisations strive to continuously improve safety practices.

NHSCONFED Patient safety questions for board members
NHSCONFED Patient safety questions for board members - 540 KB 1061 - NHSCONFED Patient safety questions for board members - 2009-06 - V1