NHS Complaints: Openness and honesty for patients should outweigh professionals’ safe space

Published: 3 Jun 2016

AvMA welcomes publication of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) report on the quality of NHS complaints investigations published today (2nd June). AvMA provided evidence to the PACAC investigation and is quoted liberally in the report with many of AvMA’s suggestions for improving complaints investigations and the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch reflected in the committee’s recommendations.

However, the charity questions the inconsistency of the committee, which on the one hand criticises the Government for ignoring some of the Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations on the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, whilst it on the other hand ignores the Group’s recommendation with regard to openness with patients/families.

The Expert Advisory Group recommended that all information relevant to the patients’ treatment ‘must’ be shared, whilst PACAC advocates this being at the discretion of the chief investigator and places the emphasis on creating a statutory ‘safe space’ for health professionals.

AvMA Chief Executive Peter Walsh said:

“The report is a welcome signal to the Government that urgent action is needed to improve the quality of NHS investigations. However, we believe that both PACAC and the Government are wrong to prioritise the creation of a so-called ‘safe space’ for health professionals above guaranteeing openness and honesty with patients or their families about their own treatment.

“This would undermine public confidence in the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch and run against the principle of the newly created Duty of Candour. Of course we do want to see protection of staff who do the right thing, but most health professionals would agree that denying patients access to the truth is no way to do that.”