Appointment of first Patient Safety Commissioner approved

MPs have confirmed the appointment of Dr Henrietta Hughes as the first Patient Safety Commissioner, after her appearance before the Health and Social Care Committee.

The post was created in 2021 in response to a recommendation of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review which considered avoidable harm in the health sector.

The Patient Safety Commissioner is expected to act as an independent advocate for patients and to champion their safety.

Dr Henrietta Hughes is a practising GP with a background in women’s health. She was the National Guardian for the NHS until 2021.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt MP said: ‘With her background as National Guardian, Dr Henrietta Hughes is without doubt the right person to take on this important new role in patient safety and we wish her well in her appointment.

‘However, the lack of definition of the role is a cause for concern. Dr Hughes is keen to act as the point of contact for broader patient safety concerns, beyond medication and medical device errors. It’s an approach that we on the Committee would welcome but for that to succeed the post needs adequate resources. Without back up and in the absence of clear metrics to define what success will look like there is a serious risk that the new Patient Safety Commissioner will fail.

‘We owe it to patients to ensure that the PSC is launched with the best wind possible and we urge the Department of Health and Social Care to address how best to support the role as a matter of urgency.’

Baroness Julia Cumberlege CBE, Chair of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for First Do No Harm, commented on Twitter: ‘I’m very pleased that Dr Henrietta Hughes has been appointed as the first Patient Safety Commissioner in England. This vital tole was one of the major recommendations my team and I made in First Do No Harm, the report of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, published two years ago. I am glad it has now been implemented.

‘I look forward to supporting and working closely with Dr Henrietta Hughes to improve patient safety and prevent avoidable harm. I know from the thousands of people we listened to in our Review just how devasting the effects can be when things go wrong and the healthcare system fails to listen or learn.

‘The Commissioner will listen to patients and their families, look out for trends of concern that could signal a patient safety risk and hold the healthcare system to account, ensuring it acts swiftly to keep people safe.’

Photo by Fernando Zhiminaicela


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