Annex 4 - compilation of approaches

System safety assessment

System safety assessment (SSA) is a method designed to help health and care professionals think about ‘what could go wrong’ in a system, which could be anything from a care pathway to a project plan for a service improvement, to a new ward or even the movement of a service from acute care to the community. SSA is a process for proactively thinking about and addressing potential problems, either so they can be prevented from happening in the first place or so that their consequences can be reduced to an acceptable level.

At the core of SSA is a standard process for managing risks. The principles are likely to be familiar to many people involved in health and care, but the systematic and proactive way in which it is done may be less so. Current healthcare risk assessments typically focus on ‘health and safety’ risks, such as the risk of slips, trips and falls. Conversely, SSA is flexible and can focus on a wide range of risks, including clinical, project management, financial and organisational risks.

The SSA toolkit provides a step-by-step guide to the use of proactive risk assessment, beginning with the trigger and assessing risks through the examine (organise), assess and improve (create) stages of the risk management cycle.

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