Views & Reviews Laying Foundations

The “exclamation mark” school of patient safety

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 23 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5731
  1. Oliver Ellis, foundation year 1 doctor, Mersey Deanery
  1. oli.ellis{at}

Patient safety advocates talk a lot about “human factors.” In the context of healthcare, this nebulous concept seems to boil down to the study of how and why people screw up. It’s a movement that’s gaining in popularity, and not before time, because—unfortunately—medicine still hasn’t properly got to grips with how humans actually work.

Look at your average ward noticeboard for a good example. Chances are that it’s covered in hundreds of pieces of paper in varying stages of yellow decay. Many of the messages will no longer …

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