Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations BMJ Confidential

Kevin Stewart: More safety, less blame

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 21 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4540
Duncan Smith


Kevin Stewart, 59, is medical director of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, a recently established autonomous body in the English NHS. After graduating from Queen’s University Belfast he trained in geriatric medicine, which he still practices part time in Winchester. He has been medical director of Winchester’s acute trust and a Health Foundation quality improvement fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston, Massachusetts, where he completed a masters in public health degree at Harvard. He led the Royal College of Physicians’ programmes on quality and patient safety before taking up his current role. The new unit aims to undertake professional patient safety investigations that do not attribute blame or liability, using investigation principles adapted from aviation and other safety critical industries.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a vet—but my teacher asked, “Why? Don’t you like people, Kevin?” So, I decided that I wasn’t about to settle for what was seen as second best. And I discovered that I did quite like people.

What was your best career move?

Doing a quality improvement fellowship at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in 2009, and studying at Harvard, completely changed my perspective on work, healthcare, and what I can do to change it. It also taught …

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