Inspection and Regulation

02.02.17

Providers and staff slam ‘troubling’ concerns over HSIB role

NHS directors and staff have hailed the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s (PACACs) report on the NHS’s continued lack of an open-minded learning culture, calling the committee’s concerns over the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) “troubling”.

The PACAC said that it had found “precious little evidence” that the NHS is learning from complaints despite numerous acknowledgments from the Department of Health (DH), NHS Improvement and the CQC that the NHS’s investigative culture must change.

The committee also expressed concerns that the HSIB, the new investigative healthcare body, is being asked to commence its investigative work without the necessary legal safeguards in place to ensure that it remains independent, urging the government to bring forward primary legislation to support the HSIB as soon as possible.

Responding to the report, Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said that the PACAC’s report highlights the “continuing obstacles” faced by patients and families who seek to make complaints.

“We believe the HSIB has a valuable role to play in restoring public confidence and will support it to do that,” Cordery said. “However, with only weeks to go until it starts work, the concerns identified by the committee over its role and status are troubling.

“It is vital that we secure the organisation’s independence and more clearly define its responsibilities so that the HSIB can do its job properly.”

The PACAC’s report acknowledged work being carried out by NHS Improvement with trusts at local level which is aiming to improve how investigations are handled.

However, Cordery said that there is “clearly” a need for further progress in this regard and for better evaluation of which approaches work best in tackling the NHS’s “blame culture”.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) stated that the NHS’s blame culture is an issue that the body has raised many times.

“NHS services must learn from mistakes in order to lessen the chances of them happening again,” said Suzanne Tyler, director for services to members at the RCM. “A failure to do this is failing the people the NHS is there to care for.

“It is also critical that NHS staff can report incidents or concerns about the care being delivered without any fear of not being listened to or of being harassed or bullied because they have spoken out.”

The RCM concluded that NHS staff must be encouraged to report incidents when mistakes are made, saying that the health service needs a culture “not of fear, but of openness and transparency”.

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