New safety body given investigatory powers

A NEW Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) will be given power to investigate serious patient safety incidents under proposals laid before Parliament by the Department of Health.

The draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill will establish and enshrine in law the powers of the HSSIB, which will be independent of the NHS and at arm’s length from government. It will be given “far-reaching access to investigate serious safety incidents or risks to patient safety”.

The new body, which draws on lessons from the airline industry, will take forward the work of the current Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), which came into operation in April 2017 as a division of NHS Improvement.

The HSSIB will publish detailed reports of its investigations and make recommendations for system-wide learning across the NHS and help develop national standards on investigations. It will also provide advice, guidance and training to improve investigative practice across the health service.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, commented: "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.

"A key feature of the HSSIB would be its new approach to investigations, which will protect the information it holds from disclosure.

"The aim is to create a ‘safe space’ in which participants, including patients, families and staff, can share information in the knowledge that it will not be disclosed except in limited circumstances, or by order of the High Court."