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NHS reforms risk sowing confusion and undermining safety, MPs warned

A bid for more control over the NHS by ministers risks undermining patient safety and sowing confusion over who is ultimately responsible for services, MPs have been warned.

The Commons Health Select Committee was told the proposals, set out in a new white paper published last month, lacked detail on the involvement of patients in local services and needed urgent clarification of the new powers the health secretary will have.

The plans will give ministers new powers over the independent Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), including being able to tell it what to investigate and the power to remove protections for NHS staff who give evidence in secret.

Last week experts warned the plans for HSIB could undermine its role and have lasting consequences on efforts to encourage NHS staff to be honest about errors. Under the proposals the health secretary would be able to remove so-called “safe space” protections for evidence given by NHS workers.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told the committee hospitals were worried about the plans.

He said: “We are very nervous about this relationship between the secretary of state and HSIB. In order for it to be an effective independent organisation, it does need to be free from the appearance of any kind of political control. There's a very high degree of nervousness about the ability to somehow switch safe space on and off. People need to know where they stand.”

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Source: The Independent, 2 March 2021


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