Investigation, Blame and the Avoidance of Risk in the NHS

6th April 2016 Clinical Negligence

Everyone who relies on the National Health Service for treatment expects a good standard of healthcare.

However, regular readers of this blog will be familiar with examples of medical mistakes which deeply affect patients and their loved ones.

In addition, myself and my colleagues in JMW's Clinical Negligence department have dealt with numerous such cases prompted by individuals turning to us because they have suffered injury as a consequence of negligent medical treatment.

I was pleased to read about the creation of something called the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), which began work on the first of this month. It is part of a package of improvements by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, designed to improve the prospects of analysing blunders and, therefore, reduce the risk which patients face.

One of the key motives behind how the HSIB will operate is what Mr Hunt described as the 'need to unshackle ourselves from a quick-fix blame culture'.

As a result, medical staff will be able to give evidence to the Branch without fear of repercussions.

Whilst launching the HSIB might be trumpeted as an advance, we should remember the reasons why it is being created. The Health Secretary has himself acknowledged that roughly 150 avoidable deaths happen every week in English hospitals.

I strongly hope that the new arrangement does everything that it intends to and does lead to a reduction in clinical mistakes which will make the NHS a safer place for those who need it.


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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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