In 2001, the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) was created as part of a wider reform process to improve quality of care for patients in the National Health Services of England and Wales. The NPSA was charged with developing and implementing a national system for collecting and learning from reported patient safety incidents. Between 2003 and 2005, 303 447 incidents were reported from a wide range of health care settings. As a result, a range of interventions have been developed to improve safety. A number of lessons have been distilled from the experience of England and Wales, including that: clinical risk management system characteristics should be aligned with those of the national reporting system; and safety culture and information dissemination must be addressed at the same time as any new reporting system is implemented. These lessons should be of use to other countries implementing similar patient safety strategies.