New health safety group to prevent future harm

UNDERSTANDING the causes of harm and preventing future harm should be the main focus of a new independent patient safety investigation group.

These are among a list of recommendations made by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) for the newly created Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB).

The HSIB must lead the way for the whole health system on how to carry out “learning-oriented safety investigations, helping those in the system improve rather than taking on the majority of investigations itself.” The Branch would not be responsible for apportioning blame or liability.

In March, health secretary Jeremy Hunt unveiled plans for the creation of the HSIB as part of a raft of new measures in response to recommendations made by the Francis inquiry into patient safety.

Among the other EAG recommendations are that the HSIB’s independent status should be written into legislation. Patients, families and staff must be “active participants” in the investigation process and be treated with compassion and respect.

Investigations must be led by experts, and reports must be published explaining the causes of safety issues and incidents, along with recommendations for improving safety across the system. It is also recommended that hiding or interfering with evidence is made an offence.

The EAG added that the HSIB must “promote the creation of a just safety culture”.

The new body was officially established on April 1. It will be headed up by a chief investigator who is expected to be in post by the summer.

Welcoming the Branch on its first day, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) chair Bernard Jenkin MP said: “HSIB will prove to be the biggest single step this government will make to change the culture of the NHS.

“The new concept of this body is to establish 'a new, permanent, simplified, functioning, trusted system for swift and effective local clinical incident investigation conducted by trained staff, so that facts and evidence are established early, without the need to find blame, and regardless of whether a complaint has been raised.”

He added that it had been modelled on the highly respected Air Accident Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport.

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