Recognising workforce and system pressures in investigations

We want to make sure our investigations take into account how workforce pressures or systems may have affected a doctor’s actions that lead to a concern being raised about them. To help with this, our investigations teams will shortly begin receiving human factors training. 

While we already consider the context of a doctor’s practice in our investigations, we want our teams to be trained to the highest standards, to deliver a balanced, consistent and fair approach in every case.

The training will be run by University of Oxford’s Patient Safety Academy. It will also give us an opportunity to review and modify our procedures and documents, so human factors are embedded in every step of our investigation process.

What are human factors?

Human factors is a social science that studies and attempts to optimise the interactions of humans, technology and the environment at work. It is a standard tool of safety investigation and improvement in several industries, such as civil aviation, nuclear power and military planning, which seek to balance high risk and high reliability. 

This is part of the steps we’re taking to address issues raised with us about the environments in which doctors work, and the impact of systems pressures on medical practice. Keep up to date with our progress on our supporting a profession under pressure pages.

Working with you

In the future, our aim is for concerns about a doctor’s practice to be handled and resolved locally where possible. Consideration of human factors in local investigations is consistent with our aim and we’d like work with you to strengthen this approach where necessary. Members of our Employer Liaison Service will also receive this initial training and will be involved in our work on ‘local first’ taking this forward.