Philip Dunne highlights the commitment across the care system to learning from patient safety incidents

2nd February 2017

Philip Dunne questions the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee following the Committee's statement on its report “Will the NHS Never Learn?”

I wish to add my thanks to my hon. Friend and members of the Committee for their considered report. He has succinctly described to the House what more needs to be done systematically to transform the way in which the NHS learns from errors to improve patient safety. We support the main thrust of the Committee’s recommendations and will offer a detailed response to the report in due course. Like the Committee, we put this matter right at the top of our agenda to change the culture within the NHS, of which he has spoken so eloquently today.

We are committed to making our hospitals and GP surgeries the safest in the world, supported by the NHS as the world’s largest learning organisation. The only way in which we will achieve that is through a learning rather than a blame culture characterised by openness, honesty and candour; listening to patients, families and staff; finding and facing the truth; and learning from errors and failures in care.

As my hon. Friend has indicated, the Government have accepted the recommendation of PACAC’s predecessor Committee to establish an independent healthcare safety investigation service. The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch will be up and running from April. I join him in welcoming the appointment of Keith Conradi, the former chief inspector of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, who has a strong track record of delivering high-quality investigations in aviation.

The hon. Gentleman’s Committee has again called for HSIB to be statutorily independent, and we agree that it should be as independent as possible if it is to discharge its functions fully and effectively, and we would not rule out the option of legislation. His Committee has also raised, in this week’s report, various suggestions for HSIB and its potential role in setting standards. We will be responding to that formally in due course.

We are committed to ensuring that the NHS becomes an organisation that learns from its mistakes. In response to the Care Quality Commission’s report, “Learning, Accountability and Candour”, from April this year all NHS trusts will be required to publish how many deaths they could have avoided had care been better, along with the lessons that they have learned.

Before I pose my question, I should like to thank the Committee for its response to the Government’s recent consultation, “Providing a Safe Space in Healthcare Safety Investigations”, and we will be responding to it shortly.

Improvements in safety, incident handling and learning in the NHS will not happen overnight, but does my hon. Friend agree that the shared programme of work demonstrates a commitment, across the care system, to improve the way that all serious patient safety incidents are viewed and treated, and is that not a crucial foundation for lasting change?

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