A long-awaited deal to feed private providers’ safety incidents into a national database has been delayed since last July by plans to abolish the National Patient Safety Agency.

Patients could be at risk while the deal remains unsigned, because patient safety alerts are currently based only on NHS data, Independent Healthcare Advisory Services director Sally Taber told HSJ’s sister publication Nursing Times.

The NPSA’s national reporting and learning system receives confidential reports of safety incidents from healthcare staff across England and Wales, which experts analyse to identify common risks and issue safety alerts. The agency also publishes regular data on the number of incident reports it receives, broken down by region and organisation.

Ms Taber said the private acute sector was on the cusp of agreeing to feed its incident reports to the system.

But when the Department of Health decided in July to abolish the NPSA, “everything came to a grinding halt”, she said.

“Just before the review of arm’s length bodies [which led to the decision to abolish the agency] we had all the support from the independent sector to feed their adverse clinical incidents to the NPSA. We had all the IT sorted out,” she told Nursing Times.

Since then the deal has been on hold, as parties wait to see who will take on the national reporting and learning system after the NPSA’s demise.

Ms Taber said that currently patients “don’t get any comparison to see whether these [safety issues] are problems in the independent sector, and from a patient safety point of view that’s key”.

An NPSA spokeswoman said linking independent sector providers to the reporting system was first trialled in 2005.

“Over the last year we had started the conversations again to see how the independent sector could feed into the system but unfortunately these discussions have been put on hold since the decision to abolish us,” she said.