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Human factors and patient safety culture

Designing healthcare facilities, equipment and the delivery of care around an understanding of human behaviour is vital to reduce the potential for human error.


This also helps healthcare staff to act as a barrier against harm. Human factors is a broad discipline which studies the relationship between human behaviour, system design and safety.


Patient communication

A safety culture is where staff within an organisation have a constant and active awareness of the potential for things to go wrong. Both the staff and the organisation are able to acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and take action to put things right.


To reduce the likelihood of incidents occurring, patient safety needs to be addressed at an institutional level, ‘from trust board to ward’, as well as by designing out errors in processes and equipment.


The National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS) encourages healthcare organisations to foster a culture of patient safety and to consider human factors when designing and implementing systems and process.


Resources include:



Use the box below to search for more resources relating to human factors and safety culture.

TitleIssue dateType
Engaging Clinicians31 October 2002Guidance
Design for Patient Safety Report01 January 2003Guidance
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) toolkit01 January 2004Toolkit
Incident Decision Tree01 February 2004Toolkit
Seven steps to patient safety: full reference guide01 July 2004Guidance
Being open when patients are harmed01 October 2004Alert
Medical Error01 August 2005Guidance
Building a memory18 September 2005Data report
Manchester Patient Safety Framework (MaPSaF)01 January 2006Guidance
Learning through action to reduce infection01 June 2006Toolkit