May 19, 2021

Panorama: NHS patient safety learning opportunities being lost?

The BBC has has uncovered over 100 of unpublished hospital patient safety reports via a Freedom of Information request. Of the 80 reports released to the broadcaster, just 16 are in the public domain, and only 26 were shared in full with the regulators. In another 22 cases the regulator was only aware of the review or had only seen part of it. Yet sixty five of the 80 reports contained potential or actual patient safety concerns.

What is the point of investigations being carried out if their findings are not shared publicly, and acted upon?  How will that avoid the NHS scandals of the future, and how does that promote accountability in a taxpayer-funded NHS?

We already know that the best way to improve the care provided by the NHS, and to bring down the numbers of negligence claims, is for the NHS to learn the lessons of what has gone wrong and to implement that across the entirety of the NHS to avoid needless injury and harm to future innocent patients and their families. It is therefore doubly shocking to discover, as the Panorama programme appears to do, that not only are reports into potentially harmful NHS practices not being published, but that neither the CQC nor NHS England & Improvement (NHSE&I) appear to have any powers to ensure that happens.

HSE&I should not be expecting "all independent reviews should be made available" to health commissioners and regulators and it "expects trusts to take prompt action to address recommendations made" - they should be actively demanding that happens, and have the powers to do so otherwise what "Improvement" can be expected?

What the Panorama programme apparently reveals, requires an urgent statement to the House of Commons from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and immediate action from his department to ensure this cannot continue to happen, and that the public are protected from future NHS patient safety scandals by a proper and enforceable system of learning the lessons from these investigations.

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