Hazardous hospitals: cultures of safety in NHS general hospitals c.1960–2012


  • Dr Christopher Sirrs

    University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Project summary

The publication of the Francis Report into healthcare failures at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 dramatically refocused public and political attention on issues of 'safety' in the NHS. ‘Safety’ has increasingly occupied the attention of policy makers in recent decades, with hospital managers establishing various systems and processes to protect patients and staff from harm. These include alert systems, policies about patient consultation and campaigns for preventing harms such as falls and healthcare-associated infections. However, little is understood about how and why these ideas and practices around ‘safety’ in the NHS evolved.

My project explores the history of safety in the NHS, highlighting how hospitals have promoted ‘safety cultures’: ideas, values and behaviours which support safety. Drawing upon a rich seam of archival material, and a distinctive methodology which visualises hospitals in a systematic way, my project will make a timely contribution to historical understandings of the NHS.