Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2008

Martin Bromiley, an airline pilot, lost his wife during a minor operation that was carried out by a ‘dream team’ of experienced surgeons and anaesthetists. His story is the starting-point of ‘To Err Is Human’, an enquiry by Phil Hammond into the understanding and prevention of human error, particularly in the field of medicine.

Phil Hammond, who writes on medical issues and is a practising GP, as well as being a regular broadcaster, talks to Martin Bromiley and to those who are at the forefront of the medical profession, including Lord Darzi, the Health Minister, and Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer. They are faced with a statistics which claim that many patients die each year, because doctors and nurses, while technically skilled, are not sufficiently alert to the risk of a potentially life-threatening error committed by themselves or a member of their team.

Phil Hammond has taken a close interest in what the medical profession is doing to combat human error, ever since he brought to public attention details of the Bristol paediatric cardiac surgery scandal, which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of 29 babies in the early 1990’s.

Martin Bromiley explains how the airline industry has made human-factor-training one of the most important training areas for passenger safety, and those initiatives are being examined closely by the world of medicine. For instance, Lord Darzi, a practising surgeon, has had a ‘black box’ in the operating theatre recording every detail of his operations for the past 10 years. Phil Hammond also talks to one of the leading campaigners for the understanding and prevention of human error in medicine, Dr. Atul Gawande, who has written about his experiences in his Boston hospital and his thoughts on how to remove as much risk of human error as possible.

Amongst all the column inches written about the NHS and medicine, it is the incidence of human error that has been in the background of the patient safety debate. In ‘To Err Is Human’, Phil Hammond moves it to the foreground.



N.B. Some audio has been edited from the original broadcast version due to copyright restrictions


Dr Phil Hammond


Jane Feinmann/Neil Gardner


Jane Feinmann




There are no reviews yet.

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.

Select your currency
GBP Pound sterling