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DH tables bill to give NHS investigations body more power


By Carolyn Wickware
18 September 2017

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The Department of Health has announced proposals to give the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) the power to look into serious patient incidents.

Under the proposals the HSIB, which opened in April 2017 as a division of NHS Improvement, will become independent of the NHS and a governmental arms-length body.

The draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill will give HSIB far-reaching access to investigate serious safety incidents or risks to patient safety.

The Department of Health has announced proposals to give the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) the power to look into serious patient incidents.

Under the proposals the HSIB, which opened in April 2017 as a division of NHS Improvement, will become independent of the NHS and a governmental arms-length body.

The draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill will give HSIB far-reaching access to investigate serious safety incidents or risks to patient safety.

After each investigation is completed, the arms-length body will publish detailed reports to make recommendations for system-wide learning across the NHS, to help develop national standards on investigations and to provide advice, guidance and training to improve investigative practice across the health service.

A key feature of the bill is its proposal to protect the information held for the investigations from disclosure.

According to the DH, the aim is to create a ‘safe space’ in which participants in an investigation can share information knowing that it will not be disclosed except in limited circumstances, or by order of the High Court.

This move is inline with an approach used in the rail, aviation and marine industries – all of which have achieved dramatic improvements in industry safety.

Keith Conradi, the chief investigator of the HSIB and former head of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said: ‘We very much welcome the introduction of the draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill.

‘It’s a key step towards HSIB’s independence and as the bill progresses, we look forward to hearing the variety of views and comments on the bill’s content.’

The draft bill also proposes to give the HSIB the power to establish an accreditation system across the NHS, supporting trusts who receive accreditation to conduct their own investigations.

This will further reduce unsafe and costly practice, improve investigations, and embed a culture of learning and improvement throughout the health service.

Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, said: ‘When significant errors occur, it is vital that health organisations react quickly and decisively to share lessons and make improvements.

‘To achieve this we need to create an environment where patients, public and healthcare professionals all feel able to speak out about their concerns, without fear or favour.’

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