Out of this world talk on improving patient safety

NASA’s top safety official visited NHSGGC to share his knowledge on safety matters which could help further improve patient safety.

A number of staff met with Dr Nigel Packham, manager of the flight safety office at NASA Johnson Space Center, to discuss his area of expertise and how these insights could potentially be transferred to managing safety in our healthcare settings.

Nigel, who was the project manager for the investigation into the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, manages safety technical authority for all human space flight programmes and is the deputy technical lead for life support systems for NASA’s Engineering and Safety Centre.

His visit to NHSGGC was in recognition of our staff leading the way in learning from existing practices and putting in place new ways of further improving patient safety.

Dr Jennifer Armstrong, medical director, said: “The meeting was a great opportunity to consider different ways of working and learn from someone from a very different field of work on how he identifies and manages risks.

“Nigel discussed the management of risk in several non-aerospace fields and compared the various methodologies to that used in human space flight.”

Nigel said: “The management and understanding of risk to patients is important. Our meeting gave me an understanding of NHSGGC’s patient healthcare culture and it is as open as what I see in my day-to-day business at NASA.

“The way risk is approached by staff exactly mirrors the way we address issues which is reassuring.

“The individuals I have met seem extraordinarily well-versed in their areas of expertise and very open to new ideas. Hopefully I’ve left them with some of the things we do at NASA which might help them in their work.”