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What role do patients have in ensuring safe care?

Can patients be effective in maintaining their own safety?

In Right-touch regulation we identified a number of agents contributing to the safety and quality of patient care; these include the law, regulators and employers, as well as patients themselves. Whilst not proposing that patients should be made responsible for staying safe, we do suggest that patients can have a role to play and may be effective partners in maintaining their own safety.

We commissioned research to explore further the role of patients and service users in ensuring the safety of the care they receive. The research was qualitative, based on a mixture of focus groups plus face-to-face and telephone interviews. These were carried out across the four countries of the UK, in both rural and urban locations; the research included patients from a range of backgrounds and with varying experiences of health and care services.

Some of the key findings from this sample of 86 participants were:

  • Of all those involved in patient safety, health professionals were perceived as having most responsibility; recognition of the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own safety varied across the sample.
  • In many ways, the research suggests that less experienced patients may be vulnerable to potential lapses in safety because they lack the experience of engaging with health services and the attitude and skills more experienced patients have developed.
  • Caring roles helped individuals overcome any reticence they might feel about challenging health and care practitioners.
  • Whilst patients are willing to question the care they are receiving, they also do not want to feel that their trust in health professionals is being undermined.

Involving so many participants in the research has resulted in a user-friendly and easy to read report – with a rich selection of quotes to illustrate the findings. The report is now available on our website.


Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care 

Christine Braithwaite, Director Standards and Policy

Reception: 020 7389 8030


Notes to the Editor

  1. The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care oversees nine statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK.
  2. We assess their performance and report to Parliament. We also conduct audits and investigations and can appeal fitness to practise cases to the courts if we consider that sanctions are insufficient to protect the public and it is in the public interest.
  3. We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.
  4. We share good practice and knowledge, conduct research and introduce new ideas to our sector. We monitor policy developments in the UK and internationally and provide advice on issues relating to professional standards in health and social care.
  5. We do this to promote the health, safety and wellbeing of users of health and social care services and the public. We are an independent body, accountable to the UK Parliament.
  6. Our values are at the heart of who we are and what we do. We are committed to being impartial, fair, accessible and consistent in the application of our values.
  7. More information about our work and the approach we take is available at