In 1994 Dr Lucian Leape, Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health stated that human beings make mistakes because the systems, tasks and processes in which they work are poorly designed. Studies [1–3] find that approximately 10% of patients admitted to hospital suffer some kind of harm through errors in hospital procedures, problems with healthcare delivery systems or products, so there is plenty of scope for designers to do better. The Design for Patient Safety report [4] also highlighted problems in the use of design by the UK NHS.

Designers are not generally foolish or negligent, but for various reasons (e.g. inability to achieve agreement across a number of services to standardise specifications) designs may fail to progress to manufacture, be accepted or adopted by practitioners. [5]

In 2005 the UK Design Council defined a four-stage process to describe best practice for the...

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