This project has two interconnected strands:

  1. Patient safety
  2. The occupational health and safety of NHS staff

As the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has shown, the health and safety of NHS staff, and the safety and welfare of NHS patients, are intimately linked. In order to examine the evolution of ‘safety cultures’ in the NHS, therefore, it is necessary to understand the historical relationship between patient safety and occupational health and safety in the hospital context.

It is revealing that current discourses around the NHS ‘safety culture’ raise occupational health and safety issues, such as the psychological wellbeing of staff, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), and the ability to ‘speak up’ about safety concerns. The Francis Report into healthcare failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 highlighted how workplace stress, anxiety, and an environment of blame and harassment all contributed to a organisational culture which allowed neglectful practices to thrive. The health and safety of staff, in other words, is not tangential to an understanding of ‘safety cultures’ in NHS hospitals, but fundamental.