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Patient Safety Commissioner for Scotland

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Earlier this summer the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, led by Baroness Cumberlege, published its report First Do No Harm, which looked at how the healthcare system in England responds to reports about the harmful side effects from medicines and medical devices.

One of the central recommendations of this report was the proposed appointment of a Patient Safety Commissioner who would “would champion the value of listening to patients and promoting users’ perspectives in seeking improvements to patient safety around the use of medicines and medical devices”. The UK Government has yet to respond to the recommendations of the report and on the specific suggestion of Patient Safety Commissioner the Care Quality Commission’s chief executive Ian Trenholm recently suggested he was not sure such a role was needed.

However today in their new Programme for Government the Scottish Government have confirmed that they will seek to “establish the role of a Patient Safety Commissioner”, following the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman suggesting they were looking into this in August.

While its still early days – we’re yet to hear details on the proposed Commissioner's responsibilities, resources and reporting lines – would be keen to hear other people’s thoughts on this. Do you think a proposed Patient Safety Commissioner in Scotland or any of the other three countries in the UK would be a positive development? If so, what would this type of role need in order to be successful and really make a difference?

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On the hub now is a link to the transcript of Tuesday's debate in the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Government's response to the First Do No Harm report. While no formal details were given about the nature of this role, other than it will be open to consultation, some notable comments in the debate included:

  • Alex Neil MSP suggested the role should be 'a parliamentary appointment, not a Scottish Government or NHS appointment', calling for the role to have real powers and should be (unlike the Scottish Human Rights Commissioner) able to investigate specific cases.
  • Kenneth Gibson MSP also concurred with the suggestion this should be a parliamentary appointment.
  • Pauline McNeill MSP stressed that 'the independence of a patient safety commissioner is paramount'.
  • Neil Findlay MSP said 'that person must carry the confidence of survivors of mesh, Primodos and sodium valproate, and I suggest that survivors should be heavily involved in the recruitment of that person'.


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