Article Text

other Versions

Improving patient safety in paediatrics and child health
  1. Terence Stephenson (terence.stephenson{at}
  1. The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom


    In 2005, I wrote about the new UK National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) [1]. However, patient safety is about much more than a government agency; it is about a huge cultural change in how doctors practise.

    Two anecdotal case studies may be of interest. In October 2007 the US Department of Justice fined British Petroleum $50m relating to the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 which killed 15 people and injured 170.

    In November 2006 I spent a week with the oil company Shell on an attachment organised by the National School of Government. I wanted exposure to an industrial environment where, like paediatrics, safety is crucial and where things can go wrong very quickly. I retain three memorable images from my arrival at Shell, none of which were the 'rocket science' I anticipated of the high-tech petroleum industry.

    The car from the airport could park at Shell only by reversing into the parking space - accidents happen when drivers reverse out after work in the evening darkness. On entering the building and climbing the stairs, I was politely told I had to hold the stair rail. This behaviour would not come as second nature on a North Sea oil rig if not insisted upon ashore. My cup of coffee had to be covered with a lid if I wanted to carry it around the office with me.

    Statistics from

    Request permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.