Patient Safety

Part of Petition - Royal Bank of Scotland Closure in Rothesay – in the House of Commons at 9:08 pm on 28th March 2018.

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Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 9:08 pm, 28th March 2018

I think it is for a variety of reasons. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise that issue; if she bears with me, I shall come to it a little later.

A first step in our new direction, based on an aviation model, is the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, which became fully operational in April last year and will independently investigate some of the most serious patient safety incidents every year. It is the first investigatory body of its kind in the world and demonstrates our commitment to learning and innovation. As part of the Government’s drive to make the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth, HSIB will standardise investigations of cases of unexplained severe brain injury, intrapartum stillbirths, early neonatal deaths and maternal deaths in England.

As an MP who represents a constituency in the area served by Southern Health, I am particularly aware that tragedy can spiral when an organisation loses sight of systematic problems in its provision of care. Our Learning from Deaths programme is a direct response to such events. Trusts are now expected to have proper arrangements for learning from the deaths of patients and are subject to new reporting arrangements, including evidence of learning and improvements. I should add that we are one of the first countries in the world to measure deaths in this way. Through Learning from Deaths, NHS England is supporting improved engagement across the NHS with bereaved families and carers.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham rightly says, healthcare professionals need to feel safe to speak out about problems in the workplace. To support that, we have introduced an independent national officer for whistleblowing, and new regulations to prevent discrimination against whistleblowers who move jobs. Recent commentary in the media and among professionals has highlighted a possible brake on openness and transparency arising from high profile convictions of healthcare professionals for gross negligence manslaughter, which is exactly the same example as the one that she cited. That is why the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced in February that he was asking Professor Sir Norman Williams, former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, to conduct a rapid review into the application of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare.

Absorbing the review’s recommendations into our healthcare system will be crucial to ensure that our healthcare professionals feel valued and secure, and that includes the GMC. The deadline for submitting evidence is April, and I encourage patients, families and professionals to contribute.

It is essential that infants have the best possible start in life, and the safety of mothers and their babies is a fundamental starting point for safer care. In November 2017, the Secretary of State announced his intention to bring forward the ambition to halve the rate of maternal deaths, neonatal deaths, birth-related brain injuries and stillbirths by 2025—a full five years ahead of our previous target. Pre-term birth is a major health inequality with mothers, and the Secretary of State has set an ambitious target to reduce the national rate of pre-term births from 8% to 6%.

Continuity of care is a key factor in a healthy pregnancy. Evidence shows that women who continue to receive care from the same midwives are 19% less likely to miscarry, and 16% less likely to lose their baby. That is why, yesterday, the Secretary of State announced important steps towards ensuring that the majority of women receive care from the same small team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, labour and birth by 2021. That announcement includes 650 new training places for midwives in 2019, which represents a 25% increase in the number of midwives in the UK.

We can never be complacent. Zero harm might sound impossible to achieve, but it should always be our aim. By learning lessons when things go wrong, listening to patients and their families, and working across the whole system to create a genuine culture of improvement, this Government are making a significant and lasting contribution to patient safety.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.