Queen’s Speech delivers new patient safety legislation

Parliament Square

New legislation which could give official powers to the Health Service Safety Investigation Branch (HSSIB) has been unveiled in the Queen’s Speech.

The Draft Patient Safety Bill would establish the body in statute, helping to “improve how the NHS investigates and learns from mistakes.”

The bill would provide HSSIB with powers to conduct independent and impartial investigations into patient safety risks in the NHS in England.

It would also legislate against the disclosure of information held in connection with an investigation led by HSSIB, enabling participants to be as candid as possible.

The body, formerly known as the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), was a government recommendation made in Learning not blaming, the government’s response to three reports on patient safety.

Speaking at Confed17 last week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt signalled that the government’s priorities over the next 12 months will be a continued focus on safety improvements.

Announcements and absences 

The Queen's Speech, which outlined the government’s legislative programme for the next two years, made no mention of Conservative Party manifesto commitments to introduce a new Mental Health Act or reform legislation relating to the regulation of healthcare professions.

There was also no mention of making legislative changes to the internal market.

The speech did, however, announce reform of existing legislation for mental health and a consultation on social care reforms, a commitment to increase the National Living Wage and to balance the UK’s budget by 2025.

The head of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network welcomed the government’s commitment to mental health and the planned reform of mental health legislation which is much needed. 

“The Mental Health Act has played an important role in supporting people who have reached the point of crisis, but it is nearly 35 years old and clearly needs refreshing,” the organisation’s chief executive, Sean Duggan, said.

“It would have been a mistake to scrap it and start from scratch without undertaking a full review. So we support the proposal for reform and in particular identifying why the number of detentions under the act has risen by around 10 per cent year-on-year since 2010/11.”

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