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Dr Darren Kilroy (Medical Director, International, RLDatix) reflects on the BMJ Journal: Emotional Safety is Patient Safety. These are interesting and changing times for how ‘safety’ is framed in health. Through a combination of history and regulation, our understanding of what ‘patient safety’ means is almost exclusively described in terms of bio-medical absences – safe because the patient did not die unexpectedly; safe because wrongsite surgery was avoided; safe because medication errors did not occur, and so on. We lean into such measures because they are straightforward to capture, hence report. There is growing support for a comprehensive re-evaluation of this reductive approach and the BMJ Journal: Emotional Safety is Patient Safety takes us through a series of propositions which hint at the possibilities. 1. The traditional approach to patient safety uses physiological metrics or the demonstrable absence of doing harm to assure 'being' safe. 2. The lived experience of receiving healthcare places much more emphasis on 'feeling' safe. 3. There are specific examples of where ostensibly 'safe' care can actually encompass a lived experience of significant emotional harm 4. There is a compelling argument for re-framing 'safety' around 'feeling' as well as 'being' and the ways in which this could be achieved demand further development and discussion There are so many intriguing ideas presented in the journal and so much that can be picked out for further consideration. How do we use workforce and governance technology to underpin a shift away from dry biomedical data and toward a patient-centred approach to safety? What can be done to incorporate the patient voice into this space, be that in terms of product development or – more immediately – product implementation and ongoing success? Can we say and do more to ensure that the lived experience of patients – the ‘feeling safe’ rather than the ‘being safe’ – is moved from exception, complaint, or litigation into the routine workday management of quality and safety within care providers? These are the questions that now demand consideration. We must engage in the debate.
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