Another busy year and more challenges/opportunities ahead!

by AvMA Chief Executive Peter Walsh

2018 saw no let-up in the demand for AvMA’s vital helpline, case work and inquest services. In fact, we simply do not have the resources to help everyone who might have come to us for specialist independent advice. Nor were we short of policy issues to address in the interests of patient safety and justice.

We were pleased to be part of the Learning from Deaths programme, and together with the families who took part made sure that their experiences and needs were taken on board. New guidance was issued but we are hoping for more systemic changes to come.

The fixed costs in clinical negligence proposals continued to threaten access to justice for our beneficiaries, but we at least had the proposals restricted to cases with damages of £25,000 or less and secured a place on the working party looking at this and which we are making the case for further changes and safeguards.

As reported elsewhere in this newsletter, the year ended on a high note as the Government finally agreed to drop proposals to impose a so-called ‘safe space’ on local incident investigations. This followed a concerted campaign by ourselves, our supporters and others and is a great relief. The fact that the Government were prepared to persist with the idea until the report of a joint parliamentary committee rubbished it is worrying though.

2019 promises not to be dull either. We are likely to see proposals for a Rapid Resolution and Redress Scheme emerge at last following a consultation last year. Depending on how the Government react to the consultation responses this could be good or bad news for children injured at birth. It will certainly be a big issue which will involve us working hard to ensure it is as fair and effective as possible.

The proposals from the clinical negligence fixed costs committee are bound to emerge by the Spring, and we can rest assured further battles lie ahead to preserve access to justice for all injured patients and their families. Hopefully, we will see some really positive steps being taken as a result of Learning from Deaths. High on our wish list is funding for specialist independent advice and for legal representation at inquests for families.

We are also looking forward to the Healthcare Safety Investigation Board (HSIB) gaining new powers and independence and the merger of NHS Improvement and NHS England and a new patient safety strategy may see a more concerted and joined-up approach.

Wishing you all a merry Christmas