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Multidisciplinary centres for safety and quality improvement: learning from climate change science
  1. Charles Vincent1,
  2. Paul Batalden2,
  3. Frank Davidoff3
  1. 1Imperial Centre for Patient Safety & Service Quality, Imperial College London, London, UK
  2. 2The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
  3. 3Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Charles Vincent, Department Biosurgery & Surgical Technology, 10th Floor QEQM Building, Imperial College London, St Mary's Campus, Praed Street, London W2 1NY, UK; c.vincent{at}


Effective improvement and research rely on sustained multidisciplinary collaboration, but few examples are available of centres with the broad range of disciplines and practical experience that are needed to sustain long-term improvement in healthcare quality and safety. In a number of respects, the parlous state of the quality and safety of medical care resembles the problem of climate change. Both constitute a profoundly serious man-made threat to the public good which have until recently been both ignored and denied but are increasingly being recognised, taken seriously and acted on. Among the most interesting and important responses to the challenge of climate change has been the creation of Centres of Climate Change in which experts from multiple diverse disciplines are brought together to tackle the problem. Such centres, while science-based, express their vision in solid pragmatic terms and embrace policy, public engagement and education as essential components of that vision. Cross-discipline collaboration has unfortunately not achieved the same effectiveness or visibility in healthcare quality and safety as it has in the area of climate change. The authors argue that there is a need to create multidisciplinary centres in healthcare to accelerate the improvement of safety and quality, and provide the necessary theoretical and empirical foundations. Such centres would draw on disciplines such as epidemiology, statistics and relevant clinical disciplines but equally from psychology, engineering, ergonomics, sociology, economics, organisational development in addition to engaging with patients and citizens and leaders with practical experience of improvement in the field. In this paper, we address some of the pragmatic challenges of creating such centres and consider how the right groups and networks of researchers and practitioners might be assembled.

  • Health policy
  • health professions education
  • patient safety
  • patient-centred
  • quality of care

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  • Funding The International Colloquium was funded by the Health Foundation. The Imperial Centre for Patient Safety & Service Quality is funded by the UK National Institute of Health Research.

  • Competing interests None.

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

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