Dr Henrietta Hughes appointed as first ever Patient Safety Commissioner

New health secretary Steve Barclay has appointed Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE as the first ever Patient Safety Commissioner for England.

Dr Hughes’ new role will help the NHS gain a greater understanding of what they can do to put patients first, better understand the importance of the views of patients, and promote the safety of patients in general.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said: “It is essential that we put patient safety first and continue to listen to and champion patients’ voices.

“Dr Henrietta Hughes brings a wealth of experience with her as the first ever Patient Safety Commissioner to improve the safety of medicines and medical devices and her work will help support NHS staff as we work hard to beat the Covid backlogs.”

The appointment is a direct response to the recommendations put forth in Baroness Cumberlege’s review into patient safety back in 2020; the First Do No Harm report investigated issues related to the use of Primodos, sodium valproate, and pelvic mesh. The report was commissioned because women did not feel listened to, or their concerns adequately acknowledged.

The report highlighted the need to better protect and listen to patients, ultimately recommending the creation of an independent Patient Safety Commissioner.

Patient Safety Commissioner, Henrietta Hughes, said: “I am humbled and honoured to be appointed as the first Patient Safety Commissioner. This vital role, recommended in First Do No Harm, will make a difference to the safety of patients in relation to medicines and medical devices.

“Patients’ voices need to be at the heart of the design and delivery of healthcare. I would like to pay tribute to the incredible courage, persistence and compassion of all those who gave evidence to the report, their families and everyone who continues to campaign tirelessly for safer treatments.

“I will work collaboratively with patients, the healthcare system and others so that all patients receive the information they need, all patients’ voices are heard and the system responds quickly to keep people safe.”

The Government urge this is just the latest in a series of actions improving patient safety:

  • A statutory duty of candour has been implemented that requires trusts to inform patients if their safety has been compromised.
  • Legal protections have been put in place for whistle-blowers.
  • An NHS Patient Safety Strategy was published in 2019 to create a safety learning culture across the NHS.
  • The Health and Care Act 2022 also established the Health Services Safety Investigations Body to investigate patient safety incidents in England.

Dr Hughes’ experience in patient care, especially as the National Guardian for the NHS, will prove crucial to excelling in the role. She will also continue to practise as a GP and chair of Childhood First, charity that promotes the care, treatment and rehabilitation of children and adolescents.

For more information about the new Patient Safety Commissioner role, click here.

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