A “key element” in the drive to improve patient safety - Patient Safety Direct - has been delayed until next summer, despite ministerial assurances that it would be in place last year.

Patient Safety Direct, a “one stop shop” for staff and patients to report safety incidents, was proposed in Lord Darzi’s interim report in October 2007.

Asked that year by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley when it would be established, health minister Ann Keen said it would “move to implementation by the end of 2008” after being developed as part of the next stage review.

But Lord Darzi’s final report did not mention the scheme and HSJ has learned that it will now not be ready until summer 2010, following “to-ing and fro-ing” between the Department of Health and National Patient Safety Agency.

NPSA board minutes for its 29 July meeting reveal the agency was recently asked to resubmit its outline business plan to the Department of Health.

The emphasis of work now being undertaken is on clarifying “what it is” and “what it will deliver,” the minutes state.

NPSA chief executive Martin Fletcher said the project had grown following consultation with NHS organisations.

He said: “People said they didn’t want another reporting system. We’ve taken a little more time to build in different elements.”

The second outline business case was submitted after “to-ing and fro-ing over a few points of detail,” he said.

The extra work has involved developing an electronic reporting form for clinicians and a consultation on a national framework for serious untoward incidents.

A web tool to help trusts analyse safety data will be launched by December.

Mr Fletcher said: “We’ve tried to take the time to really think about it as a vehicle for transformational change rather than simply a programme on its own.”

Overall, Patient Safety Direct is expected to cost £12m over three years.

Action Against Medical Accidents chief executive Peter Walsh said: “We’d like to see action on this as soon as possible.

“Whatever snags there are, hopefully they can be overcome because this was seen as a key element in improving patient safety.”

Staff member reports an incident that causes or nearly causes a patient harm either:

  • Through local reporting system
  • To Patient Safety Direct, via phone, internet, on paper or using e-form

If the incident goes to Patient Safety Direct, the report can be:

  • Shared with the local organisation
  • Directed to the appropriate national body

The NPSA will provide detailed feedback to the person reporting the incident.

NHS patient safety hotline delayed