Article Text

Original research
Towards safer healthcare: qualitative insights from a process view of organisational learning from failure
  1. Negar Monazam Tabrizi1,
  2. Firas Masri2
  1. 1Global Development Institute, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  2. 2Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Negar Monazam Tabrizi; negar.monazamtabrizi{at}


Objectives This study adopted a process view of organisational learning to investigate the barriers to effective organisational learning from medical errors.

Methods Qualitative data were collected from 40 clinicians in high and low performing hospitals. The fit between the organisational learning process and socio-technical factors was investigated systematically from a pre-reporting stage to reporting and post-reporting stages.

Results The analysis uncovered that the major stumbling blocks to active learning lie largely in the post-reporting stages and that they are rooted in social rather than technical issues. Although the experience of the higher-performing hospital provides valuable pointers in terms of creating more trusting environment and using the potential of small failures towards ways in which the organisational learning process in the lower hospital might be improved, due to lack of local mangers’ proactive engagement in integrating changes into practice the active learning takes place in neither of the hospitals.

Conclusions To ensure that the change solutions are firmly incorporated into the culture and routine practice of the hospital, we need to focus on fostering an organisational culture that encourages positive cooperation and mutual interactions between local managers and frontline clinicians. This process will lead to double-loop learning and an increase in system safety.

  • health & safety
  • risk management
  • health services administration & management
  • change management
  • quality in health care
  • organisation of health services

Data availability statement

Qualitative data from this study are available upon reasonable request by writing to the corresponding author.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

Qualitative data from this study are available upon reasonable request by writing to the corresponding author.

View Full Text

Supplementary materials

  • Supplementary Data

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.


  • Contributors NMT was involved in data collection and analysis and writing the manuscript. FM reviewed the data analysis and the final draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.