Plans to impose ‘safe space’ on local investigations dropped

Published: 24 Apr 2017

The Department of Health has dropped controversial plans to impose ‘safe space’ provisions on local investigations following strong concerns expressed by AvMA and other stakeholders in response to its consultation at the end of last year.

The Department’s version of ‘safe space’ means potentially withholding relevant information from patients/families whose treatment is the subject of investigation in order to help people feel more comfortable to give evidence.

Although AvMA welcomes the U-turn, we remain concerned that the ‘safe space’ approach will still be applied in investigations conducted by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), and that the department is still considering extending this to local investigations in the future subject to various conditions.

AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh commented:

“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”.