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Human factors

Human factors (HF) relates to the interaction of humans and technical systems. Human factors engineering dissects tasks and considers each component in relation to a number of factors specifically focused upon non-technical human interactions between people and at the interface between people working within systems.

A ‘how-to guide’ Implementing Human Factors in Healthcare Implementing Human Factors in Healthcare (323.40 KB) produced by the Patient Safety First Campaign provides an introduction to this topic.

Poor communication is a significant contributing factor in over half of all incidents of harm.  Situation, Backgound, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) is a structured method for communicating critical information that requires immediate attention and action contributing to effective escalation and increased patient safety.

Situational awareness is one problem that can be understood and addressed through human factors. In the film, Just a Routine Operation (shown below), Martin Bromiley discusses his personal experience of healthcare.  

Situational awareness resource

As a result of his personal experience, Martin Bromiley founded the Clinical Human Factors Group in 2007. This group brings together experts, clinicians and enthusiasts who have an interest in placing the understanding of human factors at the heart of improving patient safety. Tony Gidding (past president of the Royal College of Surgeons) gives his reflections on Martin's story.

Human Factors scoping study report

The NHS Institute has recently commissioned a Human Factors scoping study to review Human Factors training provision within the NHS.  The report considers the challenges faced by the NHS in developing capacity and capability to utilise Human Factors learning to improve patient safety and reduce harm.  you can download and Executive Summary and full report below.


Human Factors Scoping Study FINAL REPORT FOR DISTRIBUTION 06-10 (exc provider details) Human Factors Scoping Study FINAL REPORT FOR DISTRIBUTION 06-10 (exc provider details) (873.28 KB)


National patient safety agency (NPSA)

Clinical human factors group (CHFG)

Royal College of Surgeons of England - Human Factors Course