Healthcare Design Group

Principal Investigator: Professor P John Clarkson

Design for Patient Safety

A survey of design practice within the UK Health Service (2004), produced in conjunction with the Royal College of Art and the University of Surrey, has highlighted the role of design in improving patient safety. During the course of the study, the research team came across little evidence of understanding within the health service of the value and significance of design, especially in relation to managing and implementing design improvements to improve patient safety. The team found cause to question, not simply the design of medical devices, products, packaging and information, but crucially the way the health service as a whole fails to understand what design thinking can bring to an organisation.

The vision of the Healthcare Design group is to embed a systems engineering culture in the UK Health Service and its suppliers.

Specific aims for the group are to improve patient safety by:

  • becoming a focus of patient safety research in the UK
  • developing models of good design practice for healthcare practitioners, providers and suppliers
  • embedding such good practice in the UK Health Service and its suppliers.

There is much scope for transferring the necessary knowledge and practice from other safety-critical industries, such as nuclear, aviation and defence, where design and risk assessment and management are well established and delivered by highly competent specialist professionals capable of taking a ‘systems approach’. However, it is crucially important that whatever solutions are put in place go beyond short term, quick fixes to deliver consistent and sustainable gains in patient safety.

The objectives of the Healthcare Design research, in collaboration with the ‘Design for Patient Safety’ consortium, are:

  • to understand the scope and nature of healthcare provision in the UK
  • to refine the systems-based user-centred approach proposed in the ‘Design for Patient Safety’ report
  • to review the uptake and effectiveness of current design guidance
  • to define the scope for a knowledge-base which would assist the provision of safer healthcare products and services
  • to investigate the trend towards home use of medical equipment
  • to develop practical methods for mapping patient, information and product pathways, and to integrate risk management with these mapping approaches
  • to develop tools to enable and encourage a systems-based user-centred approach to healthcare design
  • to investigate the efficacy of medication packaging and labelling solutions
  • to conduct a systems approach in improving the safety of medicines provision in the NHS
  • to undertake consultancy projects related to medical design.

Group Members

Current Research

Completed Research