• New patient safety minister Nadine Dorries says government will legislate for HSIB
  • HSIB bill includes powers to fine trusts and seize equipment
  • Draft bill was criticised over so-called ‘safe space’ rules

The Queen’s Speech could cover new patient safety legislation, including giving the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch extensive new powers, such as the ability to fine trusts and seize equipment.

Junior health minister Nadine Dorries has strongly suggested the government will include plans to place HSIB on a statutory footing and make it independent of the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement in the Queen’s Speech next month.

Speaking at a conference in central London yesterday to mark the World Health Organisation’s global patient safety day, the newly-appointed minister for patient safety said she had been working on the planned legislation since taking up her role in Boris Johnson’s government.

The original bill formed part of the 2017 Conservative manifesto but was reduced to a draft after the party failed to achieve a majority.

Under the draft bill, HSIB would have powers of entry to seize information, physical documents and equipment linked to a safety incident. Organisations and staff who fail to cooperate with HSIB could be fined up to £20,000.

HSIB’s chief investigator Keith Conradi would also be able to apply for a warrant if a trust or individual has not complied with a request for information.

The watchdog, set up in 2017 by then health secretary Jeremy Hunt to bring a new human factors style system approach to investigating safety incidents, will also hold evidence confidentially, including from regulators such as the General Medical Council.

Speaking yesterday, Ms Dorries, a former nurse, said she felt the system was “on the edge of something huge” for patient safety and outlined action she said the government was taking.

“Firstly, to put the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch on a statutory footing to give it the powers it needs to investigate comprehensively and we are keen to legislate on that.

“I am sure it is going to be in the Queen’s Speech. The last meeting I had before I came here this afternoon was to sign-off what we think is the draft of this legislation and we have finally got to a position where everyone will be happy with it and it maintains that degree of independence going forward.”

The original draft of the legislation drew criticism for plans to extend so-called safe space protections to local trusts which would mean they could withhold information obtained during local investigations.

She praised Mr Hunt, who also spoke at the event, for his role in patient safety saying he was owed a “debt of gratitude”.

However, the bill could prompt a Parliamentary battle with Labour, which has previously warned it would seek to amend the bill to force the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to resume its work on safe staffing, which was suspended in 2015.

Mr Conradi told HSJ: “If the legislation is in the Queen’s Speech, I will be absolutely delighted. We need to be put on a statutory basis. We need the powers it will give us to investigate professionally and to hold information confidentially.”