In his speech setting out his vision of the NHS over the next 25 years on the 17th of July, Secretary of State for Health Jeremey Hunt stated that he wanted to make the NHS ‘the safest, most patient-centric health system in the world.’
He announced the setting up of a new Independent Safety Investigation Service, which will be ‘a central hub of expertise to advise trusts when they need to investigate something quickly and with a wholly independent team.’
The safety investigation service will be modelled on the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, an organisation with a long human factors history. The AAIB puts emphasis on finding out the causes of accidents without apportioning blame and on spreading information on why accidents occur so that they can be avoided in future.
The service will be headed by Mike Durkin, NHS England’s Director of Patient Safety, and will be based at NHS Improvement, a new body that will bring Monitor and the Trust Development Authority together.
NHS improvement will be chaired by Ed Smith, NHS England’s Deputy Chairman and Chair of the Audit Committee. Lord Ara Darzi will be a non-executive director of NHS Improvement.
The idea of patient safety investigation service modelled on the AAIB has been in discussions for some time. The new service hopes to emulate the culture of the AAIB, which is described by the Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, Ken Conradi, as ‘very much a no-blame environment.’
In discussions in March, both the Patients Association and the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland felt that the comparison between the airline industry and medicine was a valid one. The ASGBI commented: ‘Both require lengthy and demanding training; the acquisition and maintenance of a complex knowledge base; high order psychomotor skills; a highly professional approach to the discharge of responsibilities; excellent interpersonal/leadership (team) skills and the ability to exercise sound judgement under pressure.’
However the Care Quality Commission thought that ‘any new, separate investigation branch could not investigate more than a fraction’ of the safety incidents reported annually that currently require investigation.
The news was well received by the medical community, although there is some concern over how this new service will be funded, given the tight budgets that the NHS needs to adhere to.
Lord Darzi will be a keynote speaker at EHF2016. For more information see www.ehf2016.org.uk.