Partial victory for openness as ‘safe space’ dropped for now

The Department of Health has dropped controversial plans to impose ‘safe space’ provisions on local investigations. This was a victory for AvMA and other stakeholders, who had expressed strong concerns in the department’s consultation at the end of last year.

The aim of the proposals had been to create a safe space to help people feel comfortable giving evidence. But this would potentially have allowed relevant information to be withheld from patients and families whose treatment was the subject of investigation.

Although we welcome the U-turn, it’s not all good news. The safe space will still be applied in Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) investigations. And the Department of Health is still considering extending this to local investigations in the future, subject to various conditions. This remains a real concern for us.

Peter Walsh

Peter Walsh

“There can be no justification for hiding relevant information about a patient’s treatment from them or their family. The HSIB statutory directions should be changed to reflect that and the department should withdraw the threat to impose this measure on local investigations, which is contrary to the Duty of Candour, NHS Constitution, and existing guidance on fully involving patients/families in investigations.”

Chief executive Peter Walsh