• Keith Conradi, chief inspector at the Air Accident Investigation Branch, named as preferred candidate
  • MPs on the Commons public administration committee will hold an appointment hearing next week
  • Mr Conradi will be responsible for a £3.6m budget carrying out approximately 30 investigations a year

The existing head of the UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch is set to become the chief investigator of the new NHS patient safety body, HSJ can reveal.

Keith Conradi, formerly a professional pilot, has been selected by health secretary Jeremy Hunt as his preferred candidate to lead the new Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.

He will appear before a confirmation hearing by the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee next week.

Department of Health sources confirmed Mr Conradi’s proposed appointment to HSJ, ahead of a formal announcement expected next week.

With a budget of £3.6m, Mr Conradi, who has been head of the AAIB for six years, will be responsible for establishing HSIB, which was set up in the wake of the Morecambe Bay scandal, and for carrying out around 30 investigations of NHS safety incidents each year.

Mr Conradi will also be expected to lead work on developing an “exemplar model” of incident investigation to help NHS organisations identify the root causes of errors which lead to patient harm, and to improve the way the health service learns from mistakes.

He will report to the health secretary. Although HSIB will be part of NHS Improvement, both the Department of Health and NHS Improvement have said it will have operational independence.

Mr Conradi is likely to face questions from MPs about HSIB’s independence, which has been a controversial issue. Mr Hunt has rejected expert advice and recommendations from MPs that the new body should be established in primary legislation, and fully independent.

Before becoming chief inspector at the AABI, Mr Conradi worked as one of its principal inspectors from 2002. Before that he was a pilot on long haul flights for Virgin Atlantic. He has 30 years of experience operating military and civilian aircraft.

HSIB is modelled on industry investigation units like the AAIB, which is focused on determining how accidents happened without apportioning blame or liability.

The new body will operate what is known as a safe space for its investigations, with information and evidence prevented from publication unless by court order. The chief investigator will have discretion to share information with families and patients, who will be part of the investigation process.