Patient safety incidents and the second victim

Over the last 10 years, Professor Rebecca Lawton has led pioneering research in the UK on the impact on staff who have been involved in a patient safety incident.

Staff in this situation who experience a strong emotional and physical reaction (e.g. anxiety, loss of confidence, sleeplessness, depression) are referred to as ‘second victims’ of safety events, the patients and families being the first victims.

The second victim project is now part of a broader theme of work (Workforce Engagement and Wellbeing) funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and delivered by Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre.

By utilising the knowledge the research team has gained through their patient safety studies, they have recently developed and launched a second victim website. The website supports healthcare staff, normalising the often strong emotional response to safety incidents to help them get the support they need should they find themselves involved in such an events. 

Professor Lawton has recently written a letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal to support doctors who make mistakes.