Ombudsman comments on proposed Health Service Safety Investigations Bill

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Rob Behrens CBE, yesterday delivered a speech on the vital role the Ombudsman plays in establishing, restoring or maintaining public trust in public services. He cites independence, impartiality and transparency as crucial to this challenge.

Behrens commented on the draft bill to establish the Health Service Safety Investigation Branch (HSSIB), which will conduct independent learning-focussed “safe space” investigations. The bill proposes that HSSIB should have the power to accredit NHS Trusts to conduct investigations into themselves. HSSIB’s chief investigator Keith Conradi has recently suggested that this threatens to undermine trust in the very idea of a safe space investigation and the perceptions of HSSIB’s independence from those it investigates.  

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens said:

Our casework demonstrates all too often how defensiveness can inhibit NHS Trusts from identifying tragic mistakes and learning from them. A key function of the Health Service Safety Investigation Branch (HSSIB) is to provide an impartial safe space for this learning to take place so it’s vital that it is wholly independent from hospitals.

'If the government gets this right, HSSIB can make an important contribution to improving patient safety.'

Rob Behrens was speaking last night at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, where he delivered a public lecture, entitled Truth Unto Power