New strategy launched to improve patient safety through digital technology

Strategy commits to expanding access to digital safety training for staff, with recommendations for using digital to improve patient safety

On World Patient Safety Day, NHSX in collaboration with NHS Digital and NHS England and NHS Improvement, has published the first ever Digital Clinical Safety Strategy to help the NHS provide a safer service for patients.

NHSX’s new strategy, developed with NHS Digital and NHS England and NHS Improvement, builds on the national NHS Patient Safety Strategy. It sets out a clear vision and recommendations to make care safer for patients, use digital to improve safety and expand staff access to digital safety.

Under the proposals, more information on digital clinical safety will be collected through systems like the Learning from Patient Safety Events Service and access to digital safety training for staff will be expanded.

The strategy also commits to:

  • capturing data on digital clinical safety issues for the first time
  • consolidating digital clinical safety resources into one place
  • promoting how to do digital clinical safety well, working with blueprinting teams to create digital safety best practice blueprints

Digital technologies offer the opportunity to improve patient safety and address historic challenges, whilst new technologies to improve care and help Covid recovery efforts need to be introduced safely.

Currently digital safety activities are often left to the small group involved in designing, manufacturing, commissioning and deploying technologies.

Given digital technology is now being used in all parts of the health and care service to improve care for patients, there is a need for more staff to be trained in digital safety.

This collaborative strategy commits to a new model for digital clinical safety training across the patient safety and digital health workforce, with a specific focus on patient safety specialists, chief clinical information officers (CCIOs), chief information officers (CIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs) and wider frontline teams.

The programme will be accelerating adoption of digital technology to improve the recording of medical devices implanted in patients at the point of care and establishing new information systems to collect, link and analyse outcomes by procedure.

Registries will then be developed to support detailed analysis of outcomes data to drive improvements in patient safety and inform the NHS’s use of devices and implants.

Natasha Phillips, chief nursing information officer and director of patient safety at NHSX, said:

“Safety is everyone's responsibility and as a nurse, I know very well the importance of delivering safe care and what it looks like when everyone contributes to a culture of safety.

“Digital technology offers an opportunity to improve safety in clinical care through better reporting and monitoring, but we also need to ensure that new digital technologies are introduced safely.

“We will be empowering staff with the knowledge and skills to ensure safety will help us build a culture where safety is at the heart of all that we do.

“Through this Digital Clinical Safety Strategy, we provide a collaborative national direction towards the enhanced safety of digital technologies that is fit for the future.”

Professor Jonathan Benger, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Digital, said:

“Throughout the past 18 months data and technology have played a vital role in protecting the public, from setting up the Shielded Patient List to the roll-out of the vaccine programme. This new initiative has allowed NHSX, NHS Digital, NHS England and Improvement, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to work together to build on both the National Patient Safety Strategy and the experience we’ve gained during the pandemic. This means the NHS can continue to develop and deploy safe digital technologies that improve health and save lives.”

The strategy contains a number of commitments for national bodies, which have been informed by engagement with stakeholders, patients and frontline staff. These focus around improving data collection, training development, accelerating the adoption of digital technologies to record and track implanted medical devices, and generating evidence for how digital technologies can be best applied to patient safety challenges.

Work programmes for each of the five commitments outlined in the strategy will now be progressed with progress against objectives will be overseen and monitored by a Digital Clinical Safety Board.

The NHSX Digital Clinical Safety Strategy is available here.

The NHS Patient Safety Strategy is available here.