NHS boards “too often” prioritise governance, finances and targets above patient safety, the Commons health committee said today.

Its report on patient safety said progress had been made, citing health minister Lord Darzi’s next stage review and the creation of the National Patient Safety Agency.

The committee also praised good practice such as the Health Foundation-led safer patients initiative.

However, it said not enough evidence was available about how much harm was being done to patients.

The committee found there was confusion about the role of different NHS bodies, particularly the Care Quality Commission and foundation trust regulator Monitor.

Its report says: “There appears to be considerable potential for confusion, and possibly conflict, regarding the respective roles of Monitor and the CQC, as Monitor itself has indicated.

“The DH must clarify exactly what these two organisations’ regulatory roles are in respect of foundation trusts and how those roles fit together.”

The committee highlighted delays in introducing technologies shown to improve patient safety and “serious deficiencies” in medical training.

Its recommendations include:

  • Clarify and rationalise commissioning, performance management and regulation
  • Measure patient harm rates by regular reviews of case notes
  • Introduce an NHS redress scheme
  • Introduce better and more explicit patient safety education for healthcare workers

Committee chair Kevin Barron said: “We are saddened by the avoidable harm that so many patients suffer.

“While we recognise and are pleased that Lord Darzi’s NHS review emphasises safety, it has become clear to us that not all services are safe enough yet.

“Our report highlights many areas where urgent action is required, in some cases where it is a life or death situation, and we urge the government to ensure that everyone in the NHS realises that avoiding harm to patients must be their top priority.”