• NHS England chief executive says lawyers sometimes get in the way of doctors learning from patient safety incidents
  • Admits there is still “long way to go” on patient safety agenda
  • But hopes new clinical strategy will help to continue addressing issue

Lawyers sometimes get in the way of doctors learning from patient safety incidents, says Simon Stevens.

Speaking at an event organised by the Public Policy Projects think tank last night, the NHS England chief executive also admitted there is still “quite a long way to go” on the patient safety agenda.

In a question and answer section, he was asked about supporting and retaining staff following incidents by Joanna Lloyd, a partner at law firm Bevan Brittan.

In his reply, he talked about learning from incidents and added: “Your profession sometimes gets in the way quite frankly… the mantra should basically be keep doctors out of court and lawyers out of hospital. Roughly speaking.

“The reality I think is we’ve still got quite a long way to go on the patient safety journey. We still have a number of near misses and avoidable errors, which are not necessarily the ‘fault’ of the individual practitioner but are evidence of the wider layers of causation and the systems within which people are working.

“And we’ve appointed our new national patient safety director [Dr Aidan Fowler]. You’ll know that a fortnight ago he launched the patient safety strategy building on the work that’s been done in the last five years.”

The new national strategy aims to move the NHS away from traditional thresholds for serious incident investigations.

In January 2018, NHS England announced hospitals will no longer provide office or advertising space for lawyers who encourage patients or their families to take the NHS to court.

The new rules were introduced following changes to the NHS standard contract and came into force a month later.

It came after the NHS spent £1.7bn on clinical negligence claims in 2016-17, of which 36 per cent related to legal costs.