NHS: Safety

Department of Health written question – answered on 4th June 2015.

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Photo of William Wragg William Wragg Conservative, Hazel Grove

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking in response to the poisonings of patients at Stepping Hill Hospital; and what steps his Department is taking to improve (a) patient safety in hospitals and (b) the verification of qualifications and vetting of nurses recruited to the NHS.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Much is being done to raise standards in patient safety in hosptials. In February, the Department published an assessment of progress in Culture Change in the NHS: Applying the lessons of the Francis Inquiries.

Key areas of progress include:

- a new inspection regime with the Care Quality Commission appointing three powerful Chief Inspectors for hospitals, social care and primary care and a new set of fundamental standards;

- a programme of safety improvement including a three-year safety campaign and network of 15 patient safety collaboratives to drive improvement in areas of safety that can make the biggest impact to patients;

- a drive towards greater transparency in the NHS on measures of patient safety and patient experience, and a new legal duty of candour on all organisations to ensure that when something goes wrong, patients and their relatives are told about it promptly; and

- a national programme led by Health Education England programme to ensure that patient safety is at the heart of the education and training of the health and care workforce.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is the independent regulator of nurses and midwives in the United Kingdom and is responsible for nurse registration. We expect the NMC’s registration processes and associated checks to protect patient safety through being appropriate, robust, fit for purpose and effective, and by verifying that a nursing applicant is who they claim to be, is appropriately qualified, is competent and fit-to-practise.

The criminal acts of patient poisonings in 2011 at Stepping Hill, perpetrated by registered nurse Victorino Chua (with a Philipino qualification), have raised concern about the NMC’s registration processes. Since 2011, the NMC has strengthened its process for registering applicants from countries outside the European Economic Area, supported by over £4 million of additional Government funding. Improvements include a clinical test of competence, a more robust system of face-to-face identity checks and advanced passport scanning technology to verify identity documents. Due to concern about untrained overseas nurses working in the Untied Kingdom, the NMC audited some 14,000 nurses, which did not result in any regulatory action.

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