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Involving patients and carers when things go wrong in health care can you help?

Update from NHS Education for Scotland

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When things go wrong in health care, Scotland is committed to a person-centred approach.

Often, patients and families who have been involved in patient safety incidents or complaints about services state that their intent is that they  “don’t want anyone else to go through what they have experienced”.

Inherent in this sentiment is the desire that services learn from feedback, safety incidents, complaints and near misses where unnecessary harm is caused (or could have been) when interacting with health care services.

Current guidance suggests health and care providers explain the incident, offer an apology, and a commitment to prevent recurrence. There is growing recognition among health care providers and policy makers that when things go wrong, the patient or their families should be heard and participate in the incident investigation process (Kok et al 2018).

Guidance on how best to involve patients, carers and relatives in a caring and compassionate manner is lacking and current practice variable. The joint commission for openness and learning wants to learn and understand what ‘good and positive’ involvement for patients, carers and relatives in patient safety reviews could look like as part of improving patient safety in health care.

We are undertaking telephone interviews with patients, carers and relatives who have experienced a health care safety event within NHS Scotland. Our study will help us to explore what might help and support and what might hinder patient, carer and relative involvement in patient safety reviews.

In the telephone interview (lasting no more than 60 minutes) we will ask participants about their experience of being involved in a patient safety event.

Whilst this is not an opportunity for individual cases to be re-examined and reviewed, we are looking to understand how the involvement of patients, carers and relatives could be improved in future.

We will ask what ‘good’ patient involvement in serious health care incident/patient safety event reviews should look like from those with lived experience. This is because we wish to understand from their perspective what matters to them when things go wrong and how best to involve them to support learning and reconciliation.

Can you help? We are currently seeking people who have been involved in a serious healthcare incident / patient safety incident within NHS Scotland.

Sign up at:

If you would like further information or the opportunity to speak to us to help inform your decision on whether or not to take part please contact Dr Jean McQueen


Kok, J., et al 2018, "Patient and family engagement in incident investigations: exploring hospital manager and incident investigators' experiences and challenges.", Journal of Health Services & Research Policy, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 252-261

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