Patient safety alerts

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These alerts rapidly warn the healthcare system of risks. They provide guidance on preventing potential incidents that may lead to harm or death.

Protecting patients from harm

Incidents are identified using our reporting system to spot emerging patterns at a national level, so that appropriate guidance can be developed and issued to protect patients from harm.

Patient safety alerts are issued via the Central Alerting System (CAS), a web-based cascading system for issuing alerts, important public health messages and other safety critical information and guidance to the NHS and other organisations, including independent providers of health and social care.

NHS National Patient Safety Alerting System

Current alerts

Alerts issued on or after 1 April 2012 are published on our website.

We issue three types of alerts:

Warning Alerts

Typically issued in response to a new or under-recognised patient safety issue with the potential to cause death or severe harm. We aim to issue warning alerts as soon as possible after becoming aware of an issue and identifying that healthcare providers could take constructive action to reduce the risk of harm. Warning alerts ask healthcare providers to agree and coordinate an action plan, rather than to simply distribute the alert to frontline staff.

Resource Alerts

Typically issued in response to a patient safety issue that is already well-known, either because an earlier warning alert has been issued or because they address a widespread patient safety issue. Resource alerts are used to ensure healthcare providers are aware of any substantial new resources that will help to improve patient safety, and ask healthcare providers to plan implementation in a way that ensures sustainable improvement. Highlighted resources will usually have been developed by national bodies, professional organisations or networks.

Directive Alerts

Typically issued because a specific, defined action to reduce harm has been developed and tested to the point where it can be universally adopted, or when an improvement to patient safety relies on standardisation (all healthcare providers changing practice or equipment to be consistent with each other) by a set date.

While most alerts will relate to patient safety issues, we also issue alerts that are aimed at improving local systems and processes for improving patient safety.

Previous alerts

Alerts issued prior to 1 April 2012 are available via the National Patient Safety Agency website

National Patient Safety Response Advisory Panel

Our patient safety 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.

The panel discuss and advise on approaches to respond to patient safety issues we identify from a range of sources. These sources include clinical review of incidents reported to the National Reporting and Learning System and Strategic Executive Information System, concerns raised by patients, the public and healthcare professionals, and coroner letters.

Where it is agreed the best course of action is to issue a patient safety alert, the panel will also provide advice on the contents of the alert. The panel will initially run as a six month pilot with opportunities for ongoing evaluation.

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