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Report published on draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill

The Joint Committee appointed to consider the draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill, has now published its report.

Click here to view.

The draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill proposed that a new independent body, the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) will be established, which will fundamentally change the way in which serious incidents within NHS-commissioned services in England are investigated. The aim is to improve patient safety and care, focusing on wider learning and a move away from “a culture of individual blame”.

The HSSIB will conduct investigations in a ‘safe space’, prohibiting the disclosure of certain information gathered in the course of an investigation, except in limited circumstances. Trusts will be able to seek accreditation to carry out such “safe space” patient investigations.

The Joint Committee tasked with scrutinising the draft Bill has finished gathering evidence from a range of stakeholders including representatives from NHS management and trusts, regulators, academic and legal experts, healthcare professionals, patients and family members. The Committee have made a number of recommendations, most notably:

  • The committee welcomed the idea that the HSSIB be an independent body, stressing that it needs to be independent of existing healthcare structures, including the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS.
  • The committee asked for clarity to be provided in relation to the role of HSSIB and emphasised that it should not form part of the already existing complaints system.
  • The report recommends that HSSIB’s power are strengthened and has suggested that non-compliance be a criminal offence, HSSIB be given the power to summons witnesses and the power to enter certain premises for the purposes of gathering documents and/or interviewing witnesses.
  • In considering the concept of a ‘safe space’, the committee addressed a number of concerns regarding the protection of information given to HSSIB. However, it concluded that the ‘safe space’ was “crucial” in allowing professionals to speak openly and reinforced that the HHSIB would not replace other regulatory or investigatory processes.
  • In terms of Trust accreditation, the committee stated that this “represented too great a conflict of interest for the accredited trusts and would risk damaging confidence in the ‘safe space’ concept itself”. It proposed this be removed from the Bill.
  • The committee strongly believe that HSSIB should not have the responsibility for trust maternity investigations, which they consider should remain the responsibility of the NHS Improvement The draft bill does not currently provide for these to take place within a ‘safe space’.

So, what happens next?

The Government will now review the recommendations made by the Joint Committee and we will have to wait until the production of their second draft to see what changes, if any, they have made.

How can we help?

Any substantive changes to the investigatory process will take time. In the meantime, the Serious Incident Investigation process remains critical to the improvement of patient safety and a culture of candour.

At Ward Hadaway we are committed to working with Trusts to improve the effectiveness of SI investigations and the quality of reports through our SI and Duty of Candour workshops. If we can assist your Trust, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Liz Hackett.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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