MDU welcomes step forward for openness and learning in NHS

After a successful campaign to improve the safe space provisions in the Health and Care Bill, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) explains why this is a step forward for patient safety.

Following its return from the House of Lords to the House of Commons this week, both chambers have now agreed that coroners should not routinely have access to material held by the new Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB). This is known as the safe space, with legal protections for healthcare professionals engaging with the HSSIB and its investigations.

Dr Matthew Lee, MDU chief executive said:

“We are delighted the government has agreed to this amendment. This is about giving MDU members extra reassurance when they engage with patient safety investigations carried out by HSSIB.

“The MDU has been campaigning for this, to improve the safe space powers in the Health and Care Bill, since it was first laid before parliament. Allowing coroners routine access to material held by the HSSIB would have risked the safe space failing in the eyes of doctors from the outset. That’s why it is so important that coroners have now been excluded from it.

“During the bill’s passage through parliament, there have been cross-party efforts to improve the HSSIB legislation: Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Jeremy Hunt MP and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, made strong cases for why coroners should be excluded from the safe space.

“To see both the Commons and the Lords agree to this small but vital change in the bill, is a victory for all of us who want to see the new HSSIB and its investigations yield results, with improvements identified in the interests of patient safety.

“The MDU is committed to playing its part in the nurturing of an open, learning, no-blame culture in the NHS. Thanks to this amendment, the Health and Care Bill now has the potential to make a real contribution to fostering that culture.”