Unlearning and Patient Safety

Part of the Organizational Behaviour in Health Care book series (OBHC)


This chapter adds to the growing body of literature on unlearning by contributing a model applicable to the context of professional organisations, and more specifically to healthcare and patient safety. An overview of the global patient safety agenda is described and a gap in implementing sustained safety improvement identified. The UK’s efforts to bridge this gap in patient safety by transforming their NHS into a ‘learning organisation’ are discussed. The unlearning literature is reviewed and an updated model of unlearning conceptualized that contains three dimensions relevant to the study of professionals: cognitive, cultural and political. As a research agenda, this chapter provides a starting point for thinking about how unlearning can be studied in organisations; establishing a theoretical foundation for future study.


Patient safety Unlearning Professionals Root cause analysis Practice theory 



The author of this chapter is funded by the NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands Initiative. This chapter presents independent research and the views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Warwick Business SchoolUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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