Working with health and social care services to improve the safety and reliability of care and reduce harm

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) is a national quality improvement programme that aims to improve the safety and reliability of care and reduce harm. 

Since its launch in 2008, the Scottish Patient Safety Programme has expanded to support improvements in safety across a wide range of care settings. This includes acute, primary care, mental health, perinatal, paediatric services and medicines safety.

The SPSP has three core components as follows: 

Underpinned by the robust application of quality improvement methodology, SPSP has brought about significant change in outcomes for people across Scotland. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, SPSP has achieved the following impacts.

  • As of February 2023 seven acute hospitals across Scotland are demonstrating improvement in at least one outcome measure related to either recognition and response to deteriorating patients or reducing in-patient falls.
  • Since December 2020 the proportion of items dispensed from a serial prescription has been increasing twice as quickly in practices participating in the SPSP Primary Care Pharmacotherapy collaborative compared to the rest of Scotland.
  • SPSP Mental Health have developed safety climate resources, which include tools for measuring individual staff and patient safety climates.

SPSP has played a central role in improving the quality and safety of care over the last 15 years with some of its most notable contributions pre pandemic:

  • 16.5% reduction in Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) (SPSP Acute Adult Programme 2016 from 2007 baseline data),
  • 21% reduction in 30-day mortality sepsis using ICD-10 A40/41 sepsis codes (SPSP Acute Adult Programme 2016),
  • 19% reduction in cardiac arrest rate between 2012 - 2015 for 11 hospitals participating in SPSP Acute Adult Collaborative 2016, and
  • 74% of GP practices carried out structured case-note reviews with NHS boards reporting patient safety changes made at practice and organisational level (SPSP Primary Care 2016).


Current SPSP programmes

Click on the programme name to find out more about the programme including how to get involved in improvement activities.

  • SPSP Acute Adult: Working with NHS Boards, Scottish Government and HIS colleagues to spread improvement programmes which reduce harm and enhance the experience and outcomes for people in acute care.
  • SPSP PerinatalAiming to improve safety for women, birthing people and babies in Scotland.
  • SPSP Paediatric: Aiming to improve safety for children and families in Scotland.
  • SPSP Mental Health: Working with NHS Boards to ensure everyone in adult mental health inpatient wards experiences high quality, safe and person centred care every time.
  • SPSP Primary Care: Aiming to reduce the number of events which could cause avoidable harm from care delivered in any primary care setting.

Previous SPSP Programmes

You can find out more and continue to access the resources from our previous programmes:

  • Pharmacy in Primary Care Collaborative: Worked with four NHS boards to develop tools for the safer use of high-risk medicines, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, that are available on prescription as well as over-the-counter in the community. The aim of the work was to improve patient safety and develop a safety culture within community pharmacy and dispensing practice teams. The key outputs include the NSAIDs toolkit – Community pharmacy and the NSAIDS toolkit – Dispensing practices.
  • Primary Care Sepsis Collaborative: Worked with three NHS boards and the Scottish Ambulance Service to develop, test and implement essential elements for prompt, reliable recognition and appropriate response to deteriorating patients in primary care. Through their involvement in this work, collaborative teams improved quality and safety in primary care and out-of-hours services. Key outputs from the work are noted within the final report.
  • Reducing Pressure Ulcers in Care Homes: Worked with Scottish Care, the Care Inspectorate and five health and social care pilot sites on an improvement programme to reduce pressure ulcers in care homes. Our patient story illustrates the importance of pressure ulcer prevention. Key outputs include the programme case study report.
  • SPSP Dentistry: Worked with general dental practice teams in three NHS boards to introduce quality improvement techniques and pilot the use of tools to deliver safer, more reliable care. The key output from this work was the Dentistry Safety Climate Survey.
  • SPSP Medicines Collaborative: Worked with NHS boards and primary care teams to promote safer prescribing and minimise harm from medicines across all care settings. Key outputs from this work included the Medicines Sick Day Rules Card and Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) and Warfarin care bundle.