Call for new patient safety commissioners across UK

  • Date: 09 September 2022

PATIENT safety commissioners should be appointed in each UK country to reduce risks in health and social care, according to a new report.

This is the main recommendation made by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) in Safer care for all – solutions from professional regulation and beyond, which hopes to start an “open, sector-wide conversation” with the goal of ensuring “safer care for all”.

It looks at some of the biggest challenges affecting the quality and safety of health and social care from the perspective of professional regulation, across four key themes:

  • tackling inequalities
  • regulating for new risks
  • facing up to the workforce crisis
  • accountability, fear and public safety.

The report describes a “fragmented” health and social care landscape of four countries, “each with complex patient and public safety mechanisms spanning numerous different bodies.”

It acknowledges the many improvements made in the past two decades in health and care professional regulation, but notes that “the disheartening recurrence of failings indicates that significant challenges remain in the quality and safety of health and social care across the UK.”

The report’s principal recommendation is that each UK country should have a health and social care safety commissioner, or equivalent function, with broad responsibility for identifying, monitoring, reporting, and advising on ways of addressing patient and service user risks.

These commissioners should be independent of governments, sitting above all other health and care organisations, both public and private.

Amongst their responsibilities, they would:

  • look for national or local trends in risk data produced by other organisations
  • look for trends in inquiry findings
  • look for any inequalities concerns in safety data
  • make recommendations for addressing risks.

Caroline Corby, chair of the authority, said: “In its 20th year the authority is publishing a call to action for us all to work to address some of the major outstanding safety concerns for health and social care.

“The upcoming reforms to the powers and governance of the healthcare professional regulators will help but won’t fully solve these complex problems.”

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