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  • Harmed Patient Safety Governance role: An open letter from a patient safety campaigner

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    This open letter from patient safety campaigner Richard von Abendorff calls for patients, their families and safety campaigners to help improve patient investigation and patient inclusive systems. Richard highlights a new role coming up at the new Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB).


    Dear all

    I write this letter to raise people’s awareness of an imminent advert for a non-executive role at the new independent body, Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB), aiming to address harm in healthcare.

    I urge people to think about and share this new role at HSSIB following my own very personal experience and experience from learning from others in trying to improve health service systems following patient harm events.

    For the last 12 years I have played a role supporting four people, as a carer and advocate for frail older relatives and close friends, including my mother and brother-in-law, as they approached their final months, weeks and days of life. Each sadly had poorly met needs, at times with harm caused, in attempts to address common end of life and palliative care needs. In each case I have then engaged in attempts to get learning from these patient harm events to improve both end of life care services but also to improve the way services learn from such events. Very importantly and most relevant for this brief letter has been my growing awareness of the urgent need for services to listen, respect, and act on the concerns and insights of patients and their advocates, in order to get real learning and change in services.

    This has been a frustrating long continuing journey, but fortunately I continue to meet inspiring people with similar experiences and goals.

    At this point, my priority is to find some excellent, fearless, harmed patient campaigners to apply for this non-executive director role at HSSIB, which I have been involved in various advisory roles since its early conception. I believe HSIB (to become HSSIB) is a key cog in the development of a patient safety system.

    This service has had many challenges and difficulties to contend with and has done some inspiring work in very difficult circumstances. There is a wide recognition from those involved that it needs to develop its patient engagement, involvement and inclusion, and safe care model.

    I also believe a need to do this at all levels, not only from families referring cases and those being investigated, but also patient family and public involvement in the whole investigation, recommendations and system change process. I am informed also from experience as a family member subject to an investigation and feeding back in many roles.

    I believe the valuable work of David Gilbert around patient leadership, and the work of those developing a restorative justice model, such as Murray Anderson Wallace and colleagues,[1] [2] when working with and learning from harmed patients is essential to seriously consider the evolution of this innovative, challenging and essential field of service development.

    Please look out for the advert for a non-executive director at HSSIB in the coming days and consider who you know could apply. This will be an exciting opening for a patient advocate and for patient advocacy!

    Yours faithfully

    Richard von Abendorff 

    In personal capacity as an outgoing member of HSIB Advisory Panel and HSIB Citizen Partnership.


    1. Anderson-Wallace M, Shale S. Restoring trust: What is ‘quality’in the aftermath of healthcare harm? Clinical Risk 2014;20(1-2):16-18.
    2. Wailling J, Kooijman A, Hughes J, O'Hara JK. Humanizing harm: Using a restorative approach to heal and learn from adverse events. Health Expectations 2002.

    The advert will be shared on the hub once available.

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