We are continuing to routinely process and review patient safety incident reports and, where appropriate, use this information to identify actions that organisations can take to reduce risks. These actions will be issued in the form of National Patient Safety Alerts. However, alerts will be prioritised to take account of current COVID-19 circumstances and the actions required will reflect what is feasible at this time.
Providers are encouraged to continue to work to become compliant with present and future alerts, but they should be pragmatic about what is possible and at all times prioritise the delivery of frontline healthcare. Providers will not be penalised for prioritising care over alert compliance.
Protecting patients from harm
New or under-recognised patient safety issues that require national action are identified through clinical review of incidents reported to our national reporting system and other sources. When we identify these issues, we work with frontline staff, patients, professional bodies and partner organisations to decide if we can influence or support others to act or, if we need to, we will issue a National Patient Safety Alert that sets out actions healthcare organisations must take to reduce the risk.
This process does not include the more common patient safety challenges, such as reducing diagnostic error, preventing self-harm, avoiding falls or managing long-term anticoagulation, as they are already well recognised. These ‘giants’ of patient safety have complex causes and no simple solutions, and are the focus of long-term programmes; including a range of NHS England and NHS Improvement led national safety improvement programmes as outlined in the NHS Patient Safety Strategy.
National Patient Safety Alerts
In November 2019 the NHS England and NHS Improvement national patient safety team began issuing alerts as 'National Patient Safety Alerts'.
Our patient safety team was the first national body accredited to issue National Patient Safety Alerts by the National Patient Safety Alerting Committee (NaPSAC). All National Patient Safety Alerts are required to meet NaPSAC’s thresholds and standards, which include working with patients, frontline staff and experts to ensure alerts provide clear, effective actions to reduce the risk of death or disability.
To support us to do this, our alerts are developed with input, advice and guidance from the National Patient Safety Response Advisory Panel, which brings together frontline healthcare staff, patients and their families, safety experts, royal colleges and other professional and national bodies.
How we decide if a patient safety issue, meets the criteria for a Patient Safety Alert
This flowchart shows how we decide if a patient safety issue meets the criteria for an NHS England and NHS Improvement national patient safety team patient safety alert.
Healthcare providers and National Patient Safety Alerts
NaPSAC requires healthcare providers to introduce new systems for planning and coordinating the actions required by any National Patient Safety Alert across their organisation, and must include executive oversight. This is essential for effective delivery of systematic actions to protect staff from error and protect patients from risk of death or disability.
Failure to take the actions required under any National Patient Safety Alert may lead to CQC taking regulatory action. Declared compliance with alerts is a key safety indicator, and compliance with National Patient Safety Alerts is a focus of CQC inspection.
List of NHS England and NHS Improvement National Patient Safety Alerts (alerts issued since November 2019)
National Patient Safety Alerts issued by the NHS England and NHS Improvement national patient safety team since 1 November 2019:
- Blood control safety cannula and needle thoracostomy for tension pneumothorax - 2 April 2020
- Interruption of high flow nasal oxygen during transfer - 1 April 2020
- Ligature and ligature point risk assessment tools and policies - 3 March 2020
Previous NHS England and NHS Improvement alerts (issued October 2019 to December 2013)
Patient safety alerts issued by the national patient safety team in NHS England and in NHS Improvement prior to the introduction of National Patient Safety Alerts in November 2019 can be found via the search section of the Central Alerting System (CAS) website.
- Select 'NHS Improvement' as alert originator to find alerts issued October 2019 - April 2016
- Select 'NHS England' as alert originator to find alerts issued March 2016 - December 2013
National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) Alerts (alerts issued prior to April 2012)
Alerts issued prior to 1 April 2012 are available via the archived National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) website
Please note: The alerts and guidance that remain available on the archived NPSA website should be used with great caution.
NPSA alerts were only updated to reflect changes in current safety knowledge or clinical care that applied at the point their ‘action compete' date was reached. Some of these ‘action complete' dates for alerts, safety notices and rapid response reports occurred almost 20 years ago.
Alerts have a distinctly different function to clinical guidelines and therefore are not routinely updated or reissued. When new, more effective interventions or resources to address a patient safety issue are identified, the potential to issue a new National Patient Safety Alert will be considered.
Enduring barriers established by NPSA alerts to prevent Never Events are summarised alongside the Never Events policy and framework.