On 1st August, PHSOtheFacts published my blog “Health and Care Bill – Another layer of confusion”. In the blog, I attempted to identify flaws in the Bill now going through parliament. This included the fact that there is to be a protocol between the Health Safety Investigation Branch (HSSIB), created by the Bill and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). I sent a copy of the blog to Keith Conradi who heads up the HSIB.
In the interest of openness and transparency, I publish, with Mr. Conradi’s permission, his letter of reply.
Before commenting on the content of his reply, it is worth drawing attention to the courteous nature of the correspondence and contrasting it with the arrogant email response from PHSO published in the blog of 25th June on this website under the title “Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Behrens?”
Mr. Conradi has outlined his view on how he envisages the new HSSIB will work.
However, the current wording of the bill, addressed in the 1st August blog, does not enshrine the HSSIB/PHSO relationship in law other than to state that HSSIB will be an organisation added to the list which can be investigated by PHSO, yet they have to set ‘protocols’ so as not to tread on each others toes during health investigations. There is already in existence a protocol between the HSIB and PHSO due to expire in November this year as Mr. Conradi has explained.
As has been pointed out to me, there are additional issues:
- Who will make the decision?
- What say will patients have?
- How will patients know whether the issue they raise is systemic and should be addressed by HSSIB or incidental and investigated by PHSO (having first gone through the internal complaints process of the hospital concerned)
- HSSIB investigations cannot be used in evidence in order to provide ‘safe space’
- What will PHSO do if a hospital decides to report itself to HSSIB for a systemic failure? I suspect it will stand back.
- How will this relate to the Care Quality Commission’s terms of reference?
This aspect of the Health and Care Bill has to be of concern. It seems a classic case of legislation designed to lull the public into a false sense of security that something is being done to improve patient safety, whilst denying complainants a simpler course of redress for clinical mistakes other than the tortuous route of suing for negligence.
Politicians might genuinely believe this improves patient safety. I fear it will become just another horse on the merry go round.
It will not improve access to justice when secrecy is the overriding priority.