• CQC will monitor compliance with national patient safety alerts 
  • New committee will establish criteria to ensure critical alerts are prioritised
  • New national patient safety director Aidan Fowler will chair the committee

Critical safety alerts will be prioritised by a new national patient safety committee to ensure NHS hospital leaders take action when required, HSJ has learned.

Health minister Caroline Dinenage said the new National Patient Safety Alert Committee will create new criteria for national bodies to set a “national alert” status to identified risks of death, disability or serious harm.

The government believes this will help NHS trusts, GPs and other providers know how rapidly they need to act on specific alerts to safeguard patients.

The Department of Health and Social Care said staff feedback had shown safety information came from a variety of national bodies with difficulty knowing which were the most serious.

Over 100 safety alerts or messages are issued each year via the Central Alerting System, and the new committee will agree common standards for those that require an immediate or coordinated response by providers.

Minister of state Caroline Dinenage, who leads on quality and safety at the DHSC, said: “All NHS staff want to keep their patients safe and we will do our utmost to support them. The establishment of a National Patient Safety Alert Committee is another important intervention to ensure the NHS is supported to recognise, understand and implement the key steps that will reduce the risk of future tragedies - continuing our drive to making the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.”

The committee will be chaired by the new national director for patient safety Aidan Fowler with the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals Ted Baker as deputy chair.

Aidan Fowler said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone in the NHS to do the right thing and keep our patients safe. While we have made great progress in ensuring patient safety alerts are clear and effective in recent years, we can do more to ensure that important safety instructions attract the attention of busy NHS staff, particularly leaders in NHS organisations, who are then able to take action and further protect our patients.”

The CQC will monitor compliance with specific National Patient Safety Alerts as appropriate during their inspections, with plans to roll out the current pilot approach to trusts in the autumn.