About

Hazardous Hospitals: Cultures of Safety in NHS General Hospitals, c.1960-Present is a three-year research project at the University of Warwick, funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is being conducted by Dr Christopher Sirrs.

The publication of the Francis Report into healthcare failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 dramatically refocused public and political attention on issues of ‘safety’ in the National Health Service. ‘Safety’ has increasingly occupied the attention of policy makers in recent decades, with hospital managers establishing various systems and processes to protect patients and staff from harm. These include learning and reporting systems, policies about patient consultation, and campaigns for preventing harms such as falls and healthcare-associated infections. However, little is understood about how and why these ideas and practices around ‘safety’ in the NHS evolved.

This project explores the history of safety in the NHS, highlighting how hospitals have promoted ‘safety cultures’: ideas, values and behaviours which support safety. Drawing upon a rich seam of archival material, as well as a distinctive methodology, this project makes timely contribution to historical understandings of the NHS.

The project asks the following key questions:

  1. What defines the ‘safety culture’ of NHS hospitals? How can these ‘safety cultures’ vary?
  2. How was safety in hospitals assessed, and in what ways did it come to the attention of NHS managers and policymakers after 1960?
  3. How did NHS managers promote safety among their staff?
  4. What role did groups such as patient organisations, safety campaigners and the press play in depicting, challenging and promoting reform of hospital ‘safety cultures’?

You can follow the project via its Twitter feed, @hazardhospitals.