Swarm Huddles: Bringing together a diverse team of healthcare Professionals to rapidly assess, communicate and coordinate actions after an incident

Following a successful After Action Review (AAR) webinar hosted in January by the Patient Safety Collaborative Team at Health Innovation Manchester,  the second lunchtime Learning Response Toolkit webinar took place in February and this time the focus was Swarm huddles. Rebecca Williams, Project Officer for the Patient Safety Collaborative, shares her reflections and learnings from the webinar.

As part of the plethora of PSIRF documentation, a Learning Response Toolkit is shared in which the standard Patient Safety Incident Investigation (PSII) is complimented by a number of other innovative response methods, including After Action Review (AAR), Swarm Huddles and MDT reviews.

I hadn’t heard of Swarm huddles before. I’ve previously come across huddles and safety huddles but never Swarm, so I went about researching them on the internet and I was surprised and enlightened by what I found.

I had assumed Swarm was an acronym, as we know the NHS likes a good acronym!  But no, it is actually taken from nature i.e. what birds, bees and even fleas do.  So why are we looking at birds and bees to help us with managing incidences? Well, they act collectively (collective intelligence is greater than that of individuals) conjoining their efforts in behaviours such as vigilance and foraging for their survival.

The main element that I really like about Swarm is that it is used immediately after any individual event (ideally within 48 hours).  The staff ‘swarm’ to the site of the incident to discuss its cause and how to prevent it from recurring by asking what,  why, and  how?  Therefore, you have rapid and immediate learning from the team when it is still fresh in people’s minds.  It brings together the people directly involved in the event and a multidisciplinary team to rapidly assess, communicate and coordinate actions to address the incident. The Swarms should be quick and take approximately 30 to 60 minutes.  It is also key for it to be carried out in a blame-free environment and to allow all staff to have a say in how to make improvements.  The purpose is to identify lessons learned and develop immediate actions for improvement.

The webinar was very well received, with over 90 people attending.  There was an opportunity for peers to discuss how they have approached Swarm and what they have learned which generated rich discussions and peer support which we plan to develop further at future sessions, watch this space!

If you would like to learn more about Swarm, the presentation delivered by Stuart Kaill, Programme Development Lead, Health Innovation Manchester and the webinar recording can be found on FutureNHS.

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