The recent landmark report into the care failings at Stafford Hospital has called for sweeping changes to end the NHS's neglect of patient safety (Francis 2013). The report calls for a ‘fundamental change’ in culture so that patients are always put first, and it makes 290 recommendations covering a broad range of issues relating to patient care and safety in the NHS. This article explores issues surrounding patient safety, including the terminology associated with harm and error. The types of patient safety incidents that occur in different care environments are discussed. It offers insight into why patient safety incidents occur and describes some of the underlying factors. It also discusses preventive strategies and the role of patients and family members in enhancing safety.