• Government ’accepts’ need for patient safety commissioner
  • Commissioner would hold health system to account and report to Parliament
  • CQC and PHSO previously sceptical about new role

The government has accepted the need for a new ‘patient safety commissioner’ according to the author of a safety review commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The “First Do No Harm” report which called for the new role was led by Baroness Julia Cumberlege. She revealed yesterday the government intends to legislate for the position to be established.

The patient safety commissioner role would have statutory powers to hold the health and care system to account. It would report to parliament, not the DHSC, through the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Minister for Women’s Health and Patient Safety Nadine Dorries said: “A central recommendation in the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety [First Do No Harm] Review is for the establishment of an independent Patient Safety Commissioner and I am delighted we have tabled an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill to establish the role. 

The Commissioner will act as an independent advocate for patients and strengthen the ability of our health services to listen to the voice of patients. I look forward to announcing more detail in the House in due course.”

The “First Do No Harm” report said: “We do not need another re-organisation of the NHS to get this right; we do not need another regulatory body in an already crowded field. But we do need a new voice, with statutory powers, to talk and act from the perspective of the patient, to encourage the system to do what needs to be done and hold it to account.”

The chief executive of the Care Quality Commission and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman have both been sceptical about the proposed role.

News that the government had backed the establishment of a national patient safety commissioner came at the launch of a new all-party parliamentary group created to build support for the report’s recommendations. The baroness will co-chair the group with House of Commons Health committee chair, and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

A statement on behalf of the group said:” Positive discussions have been had with the government on the need for a Patient Safety Commissioner for England, which it has now accepted and intends to bring forward as an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill at the Report Stage. [The all-party group] is encouraged by this progress and will work to ensure the commissioner is truly independent.”

Speaking at the launch of the all-party group, Baroness Cumberlege said: “While it is welcome that the government has so far addressed one of the nine recommendations, when First Do No Harm was published in July, we had hoped that more progress would have been made by now.

“We understand that its recommendations were indeed wide-ranging, but the scale of the suffering the Review observed over its two years of work means that nothing short of profound change is urgently required.

“The government has the power to harness the consensus in favour of the report’s recommendations and deliver change for those patients affected by the issues the Review examined, as well as for future patients. Members of the newly-constituted [all-party parliamentary group] for First Do No Harm will be the first to express our gratitude when they do.”

The report revealed “a culture of dismissive and arrogant attitudes” and that many symptoms were labelled as “attributable to ‘women’s problems’”. It concluded that the NHS has “either lost sight of the interests of all those it was set up to serve or does not know how best to do this.”

The First Do No Harm report also called for the financial interests of all doctors to be published on the General Medical Council’s register, and the establishment of a new “Redress Agency” to provide financial compensation to patients.