The Department of Health has said it “makes sense” to combine national patient safety functions into one organisation, following today’s Francis review report.
The statement is made in the document “Culture change in the NHS: applying the lessons of the Francis inquiries”, which was published by the DH today and represents part of its response to Sir Robert Francis’s whistleblowing report.
In his Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report, published in 2013, Sir Robert recommended that “national functions on patient safety” be placed in a single body.
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Since then, these functions have been split between NHS England and the CQC. Last year NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said he wanted most of its safety functions to be removed, and indicated he did not want it to be investigating major safety failures.
The DH document today said: “With the Care Quality Commission now making rapid progress to improve the rigour of its surveillance, inspection and ratings responsibilities for patient safety [and] NHS England now focusing primarily on the commissioning of safe services, the government agrees with Sir Robert that it makes sense to concentrate and consolidate national expertise and capability on safety within a single organisation that can provide strategic leadership across the whole healthcare system.”
It said the DH would now “consider with relevant organisations the options for transferring NHS England’s responsibilities for safety to a single national body”. The document also notes that Sir Robert had recommended consideration should be given to transferring national functions on patient safety to a single systems regulator”.
It is not clear whether this could mean NHS England’s functions being transferred to the CQC, which is currently responsible for the quality of services, or to a “single systems regulator”, which would suggest an organisation formed from a merger of Monitor and NHS Trust Development Authority. Such a merger has been proposed by senior national leaders in recent weeks.
Neither Monitor or the TDA currently have a significant patient safety function, and only place trusts into special measures for poor patient care after receiving a recommendation to do so from the CQC.
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DH backs shifting national safety functions to single body