Welcome to the Lancaster Patient Safety Research Unit

Welcome to Lancaster Patient Safety Research Unit. The Unit was founded in January 2008 and is a collaborative venture between the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust and Lancaster University. It is funded by the National Health Service through the National Institute for Health Research. We have two aims. The first is to conduct world-class, high-quality research in patient safety. The second is to make sure that our findings are used in practice, to improve the welfare of people in North Lancashire and South Cumbria and throughout the National Health Service.

But why is patient safety an issue in itself? Should it not be that patients’ wellbeing is guaranteed, something to be expected as of right in an environment dedicated to health? Naturally, healthcare systems and those who work in them aim to promote the welfare of their users, but it is inevitable that adverse incidents will happen, for a variety of reasons including insufficient knowledge, negligence, fatigue, equipment failure, human error and more. What we at the Lancaster Patient Safety Research Unit are doing is studying healthcare practice and attempting to identify the factors that might make it less safe. This work is possible as the UK Department of Health, through the National Institute for Health Research, offered a personal patient safety research development award to Professor Andrew Smith, consultant anaesthetist at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

Who are we?

Professor Andrew Smith, the Unit’s Director, is one of the leaders in the area of patient safety in the UK, and hopes that the Unit will provide a focus locally for the growing interest and expertise in this field over the next few years. Dr Konstantinos Arfanis is a Research Fellow on this project. Coming from a social psychology background, Dr Arfanis has a long interest in the applied side of his science, and he sees being involved in a project aimed at improving people’s lives as the best way for one to apply his/her knowledge in ‘real life’. Dr Arfanis has in the last three years produced a number of publications and public presentations on various issues surrounding patient safety, including Identity, Communication, Risk perception and Teamwork.

Also part of the Lancaster Patient Safety Research Unit are two PhD students in Lancaster University, Lisha Deng and David Puga Bolio, and their supervisors, Professor Peter Diggle from the Department of Medicine and Professor Mike Pidd and Dr Jerry Busby from the Management School. Lisha Deng is using methods developed in medical statistics to explore time sequences in critical incident reports and other safety markers, with the aim of spotting developing trends and seeking identifying the exact point in time and possible environmental conditions a safety issue arose. David Puga Bolio, who joined us in September 2008, will focus on how people in healthcare organisations conceptualise safety issues through the use of markers and incident reports, and how they react to, and manage, safety problems. Other staff in the healthcare Trusts are also affiliated. More about individual members of our unit can be found in their personal pages, easily accessible from the main menu on the left.

Our Work

We have already conducted a series of studies which have looked at different aspects of patient safety and risk. Our first study commenced in late January 2009 and looked at the -possibly varying- ways healthcare workers coming from different professional backgrounds experience their everyday working life and their role in what takes place in the workplace. Particularly interesting was our enquiry into how different professionals understand and react to risk and safety. More details about this particular study can be found here. Our second study, looking at interruptions and distractions in Anaesthetic practice  was completed in late 2011. We combined observational techniques with semi structured interviews to look at Distraction and Interruption in Anaesthetic Practice. The data from this study is currently been analysed, and is due to be presented in a number of conferences and peer reviewed papers. Mode details about the study can be found here.

Visiting this website will enable you to follow our progress as it unfolds week by week. Why not join our mailing list? All you have to do is type in your name and email in the Contact Us section.

In parallel with the various studies, we  hold a series of informal sessions where professionals from all hospital areas and members of the public come together and discuss issues surrounding patient safety. This gives us, the researchers, the opportunity to identify areas of interest in the debate on patient safety, at the same time allowing those interested in the subject to exchange views and opinions.


In addition to these sessions, Lancaster Patient Safety Research Unit initiated a series of symposia with researchers and academics from the north of England and Scotland. The first of these symposia took place in Lancaster in May 2008. For information about the topics discussed on the day, and for a chance to download the presentations (in pdf format) please see the '1st North British Patient Safety Research Symposium report' here.

The 2nd North British Patient safety Research Symposium took place in Aberdeen on the 6th of November 2009.  For more information on the 2nd North British Patient safety Research Symposium please see here.

We are always happy to be contacted and discuss ideas, concerns or suggestions you might have. Please drop us a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay