Stephen Early is a service user and volunteer with Sirona. He has worked on the development of our Human Factors training programme, from designing scenarios that reflect realistic situations to giving talks at staff inductions. Stephen shares his thoughts on why Human Factors are so important.

Human Factors

“One day the doorbell went and the lady came in and she was a support worker. She came in and said [grunting], “Alright?”

“Well, straight away you know you’re not going to have a conversation with this lady about anything. And the worst thing is that these five, ten minutes you get spread out between the day are very important. It’s communication. It’s talking to someone.

“If I was feeling a bit unwell or had troubles or things, I wouldn’t have talked to her about it. And then she came and said, “Got to make you a drink.” Now “got to.” That hit me home that “got to.” “Can’t understand why you can’t do it yourself.” That was a little whisper underneath the voice.

“Then, “What do you want in your sandwiches?” and again I heard her say, “Can’t understand why you can’t do it yourself” and she left. I chucked the tea down the sink and put her sandwiches in the bin because I wasn’t going to eat or drink anything from someone who didn’t want to do anything for me.

“And then a good experience was one lady come to see me, well lots of them. And they come in and ring the bell [brightly] “Hi Steve!” Straight away you know you’re going to have a positive talk to that person. And you’re going to say to that person if there is something troubling you, “Oh I don’t feel too good today… Oh I’ve got this problem” or whatever.

“When I go on my induction days I’m able to translate to them what they actually mean to the rest of the residents. Their job’s just as important as a doctor or anyone like that because they’re doing something to help. They’re not only helping by giving someone tablets at the right time or doing some domestic or making sure someone eats. They’re actually talking to that person, which is fantastic, which makes them feel good.

“If I can ‘hit’ that one person at induction day and she stays doing caring for maybe ten years? So she might see thousands of people on her journey through her career. If she carries that through, with all of them, what a magnificent difference that’s going to make!”

Human Factors Infographic

Human Factors: the lowdown


Communication and team working can have a significant impact on patient safety. Although an appreciation of the principles of Human Factors has been incorporated into acute care services in recent years, training and resources are less applicable to the community health and social care context.


Health Education England South West funded us to develop Human Factors training for support staff in community settings. We developed the curriculum with Sirona Care & Health and North Bristol NHS Trust, which is based on how teams communicate and uses communication tools and realistic scenarios staff might encounter. These scenarios were co-designed with service user representatives.


So far, 435 staff from community organisations have received Human Factors training. We have developed a detailed toolkit and over the next 18 months will support five member organisations to train a further 2,500 staff. We are also training up to 45 facilitators across the region to create a faculty with specialist knowledge and experience in Human Factors training for community services.

View our Annual Reports here