A major patient safety improvement programme and new incident report and alert systems are to be introduced by NHS England in response to the Francis inquiry.

The moves, announced in today’s government response to the inquiry report, may be seen as an attempt to reinvigorate functions carried out by the National Patient Safety Agency before it was closed in summer last year.

They also respond to recommendations of the post-Francis patient safety review by US patient safety expert Don Berwick. The government’s full response today said a “patient safety collaborative programme” would be established to “spread best practice, build skills and capabilities in patient safety and improvement science”.

“The safety collaboratives will be supported systematically to tackle the leading causes of harm to patients,” it said. “The programme will include establishing a patient safety improvement fellowship scheme to develop 5,000 fellows within a national faculty within five years.”

The work will involve inviting organisations to sign up to improve safety, developing “skills and capabilities in patient safety and improvement science”, using measurement and “within an overall framework of support from national experts in patient safety, improvement science and large scale change”. The response says: “There will also be investment in and commitment from leaders at all levels of the organisation including board level sponsorship.”

Meanwhile, the response says NHS England will “relaunch the patient safety alerts system by the end of 2013 in a clearer framework” which will “include greater clarity about how organisations can assess their compliance with alerts and other notifications and ensure they are appropriately implemented”.

The national commissioning organisation will also “re-commission the National Reporting and Learning System”, which is used to report and analyse patient safety incidents, “to improve its functionality”.

Responsibility for the reporting and learning system and alerts, previously overseen by the NPSA, have passed to NHS England, but there has been concern some of the functions have not been carried out as well as they were. The NPSA also led patient safety improvement campaigns in the past.

NHS England has also committed to working with the Care Quality Commission to develop “a dedicated hospital safety website for the public” including information on “staffing, pressure ulcers, healthcare associated infections”. They aim to begin publication in June.

The commissioning organisation will also publish data on never events by the end of the year.