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NHS Accepts an Independent Patient Safety Body is Needed

It was encouraging to see that the new government is committed to improvements within the NHS with particular regard to patient safety, however, the proposed bill could cause significant problems for us as Lawyers when trying to properly investigate when things have gone wrong.

If you consider the Bill which at present is in draft, the purpose of the Bill is to:

  • Improve how the NHS investigates and learns from mistakes by establishing an independent Health Service Safety Investigation Body.
  • Encourage staff and other participants to share information freely with the Health Service Safety Investigation Body by prohibiting the disclosure of information held in connection with its safety investigations, creating a ‘safe space’ for staff.

This prohibition will not apply where there is an ongoing risk to the safety of patients or evidence of criminal activity, in which case the HSSIB can inform the relevant regulator or the police.

I can appreciate that often staff may not want to openly criticise another member, especially if that person is more senior however by creating the “safe space” this could prevent us in getting the full story when asking for details of the investigations which we routinely do. The Duty of Candour was a real break through and highlighted a significant change to openness within the NHS. Surely the duty of candour is at odds with the safe space idea? this could cause all sorts of conflicts which at the end of the day will ultimately prevent a full and frank exchange of evidence.

It will be interesting to see how the debate continues. That being said as lawyers working to protect the safety of patients we are encouraged that the NHS accepts an independent body is needed.