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Improving the safety and reliability of care across NHSScotland

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme was launched in 2008 and is a unique national initiative aimed to drive improvement across the whole of NHS Scotland.

The fundamental aim of the programme is to reduce avoidable harm to patients by improving the safety of patient care at all points of care delivery.

At its outset, SPSP focused on Acute (hospital based) Care but in subsequent years its remit has extended and now includes Primary Care, Mental Health and Maternity Care.

The work of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme includes projects in the following areas:

Adults in acute care

This world-leading programme is coming to the end of its first phase this at the end of this year, making great progress towards its aims of reducing mortality by 15% across Scotland’s acute hospitals. A new and challenging aim for the second phase is to ensure that at least 95% of people receiving care do not experience harm – such as infections, falls, blood clots and pressure ulcers. The existing aim to reduce death rates in hospitals – known as the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio – will be extended from 15% to 20%.

Maternity care

Getting maternity care right for every woman and baby is the cornerstone of family health and an essential element of giving all Scotland’s children the best possible start in life. We know, however, that not all children have that start in life – for whilst maternity care in Scotland is amongst the safest and of the highest quality in the world, significant inequalities exist in maternal and infant health outcomes. Developing a quality improvement programme designed specifically for maternity care is a key step towards reducing inequalities and towards making maternity care a safer and positive experience for women, babies and families.

Mental health

This is a four-year programme starting with a focus on adult psychiatric inpatient units, including admission and discharge processes. Within mental health services, other than for suicide there is currently no method for reliably measuring the levels of harm occurring. Therefore, as part of phase one the programme will develop an approach to reliably measuring levels of harm in mental health services. Moreover, phase one will work to improve the quality of critical incident reviews and ensure that learning drives improvement in day to day practice.

Primary care

This project transfers the thinking and methodology of SPSP to the primary care setting, working with GP surgeries to identify key areas of risk as patients move between primary and secondary healthcare services.

The high level aims are to reduce mortality by 15% and adverse events by 30% across NHSScotland.


The Scottish Patient Safety Paediatric Programme (SPSPP) started in 2009 and aims to support paediatric staff in Scotland to improve the quality and safety of paediatric healthcare. The key objective of the paediatric programme is to reduce adverse events by 30% by June 2013 – to be measured using the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement’s Paediatric Trigger Tool.