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Engineering Design Centre

Healthcare Design Group


Healthcare Design Group

Healthcare Design Group

Design for quality and safety

The Healthcare Design Group researches the role of systems thinking in the UK Health Service as a means to deliver safe, effective and affordable care. In particular, we are researching how to define and embed an evidence-based systems engineering culture in the UK Health Service to improve service quality:

  • by developing new models of innovation practice for healthcare practitioners and providers;
  • by delivering a framework and tools for safety management into the UK Health Service;
  • by establishing a centre for quality and safety research in the UK.

There is much scope for transferring the necessary knowledge and practice from other safety-critical industries, such as nuclear, aviation and defense, where design and risk assessment and management are well established. However, it is crucially important that any solutions that are identified are informed by current healthcare culture and practice.

We have developed, in close collaboration with local and regional healthcare trusts, a Safer Systems Toolkit for managing risk and a Healthcare Design Toolkit for guiding the early stages of the innovation process.

Group Members

Associated Projects

NIHR and CLAHRC East of England logos

Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care (CLAHRC)

The CLAHRC East of England is a collaboration of academics, clinicians and managers who are tasked to undertake high quality applied health research focused on the needs of patients and service users, supporting the translation of research evidence into practice in the NHS and social care.

National Institute for Health Research and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council logos

Promoting Real Independence through Design Expertise (PRIDE)

Chronic and long-term conditions are on the increase in the UK, leading to increased costs of health and social care and wide-ranging changes to the nature of health interventions. This network of design researchers and healthcare technology specialists will deliver design-led projects to explore solutions to care independence challenges.



Simplified System Safety Assessment Toolkit cyccle

Systems Safety Assessment Toolkit

System Safety Assessment is a method to help healthcare staff think about ‘what could go wrong’ in a healthcare system, where a system could be anything from a care pathway to a project plan for a service improvement, to a new ward or even the movement of a service from acute care to the community.



Report cover

Design for Patient Safety

Peter Buckle, John Clarkson, Roger Coleman, James Ward, Jerome Jarrett. Design Council.

This report, comissioned by the Department of Health and the Design Council sets out a perspective from the world of design. It is based on a scoping study, carried out by the Universities of Cambridge and Surrey and the Royal College of Art, to identify previously unrecognised opportunities for improved patient safety in the NHS.

Workbook front cover

Good Design Practice for Medical Devices and Equipment - A Framework

Karen Alexander, John Clarkson, Duncan Bishop, Stewart Fox. Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

This workbook is aimed at designing medical devices to make them easier and more economic to validate. An approach is presented which focuses on the design process and considers validation, design requirements and risk management of the device and the related process equipment together.

Workbook front cover

Good Design Practice for Medical Devices and Equipment - Requirements Capture

Sandra Shefelbine, John Clarkson, Roy Farmer, Stephen Eason. Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

This workbook contains a method for capturing requirements and is intended to be used by medical device designers, engineers, project managers and procurement personnel. Previous experience in writing specifications is not necessary, but experience in medical device design is likely to be helpful.


Good Design Practice for Medical Devices and Equipment - Design Verification

James Ward, John Clarkson, Duncan Bishop, Stewart Fox. Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

This workbook presents an approach for identifying and selecting verification methods and determining when verification should occur in the design process. It should be used in conjunction with pre-existing working practices and in addition to current regulations for medical device and equipment design.

Workbook front cover

Modelling and Simulation Techniques for Supporting Healthcare Decision Making

Gyuchan Thomas Jun, John Clarkson. Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

This workbook to provides guidance for people who are making decisions in healthcare. It is aimed at anyone who wants to find out more about different modelling and simulation techniques what they are, when to apply them, and what resources are required to use them. It will help decision makers, modellers and consultants.

Book front cover

Design for Patient Safety

John Clarkson, Peter Buckle, Roger Coleman, James Ward, Jerome Jarrett. Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

This scoping study is the first stage of a wider programme of work that aims to identify and demonstrate the potential of a design led approach to minimising the risk of patient safety incidents. Ongoing work is integrating this approach into the working practices and processes of the NHS and across the healthcare industry.

Report cover

Engineering Better Care

John Clarkson, David Bogle, John Dean, Mark Tooley, John Trewby, Louella Vaughan, Emma Adams, Peter Dudgeon, Nicola Platt, Philippa Shelton. RAEng.

This report, the result of a collaboration between the Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal College of Physicians and the Academy of Medical Sciences, provides a description of a systems approach, expressed as a series of ordered questions, to explore people, systems, design and risk perspectives on a system.