The plane truth – Black Box Thinking in the NHS

14th August 2018 by Richard Fieldhouse

The plane truth – Black Box Thinking in the NHS

In the first part of this three article series on errors and mistakes in general practice, we explored the psychological basis for errors and biases in human behaviour that lead to mistakes occurring. In this second instalment, we think about the psychological limits that contribute to mistakes, and how we can use these insights to build a safer, open learning culture in medicine based around the principles of Black Box Thinking.

Published in 2015, Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed explains the inextricable connection between failure and success, comparing the psychology, culture and institutional responses to failure and how mistakes are managed in two safety critical industries: airline and healthcare.

The book opens with this startling statistic; in 2013, out of three billion airline passengers across the globe, 210 people died in air accidents compared to 400,000 preventable deaths in the US healthcare system alone. This is the equivalent of two jumbo jets full of passengers being killed by preventable accidents every day.

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