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CQC seeks responsibility for patient safety

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The Care Quality Commission would like to take over responsibility for patient safety in the health service, despite NHS England gaining responsibility for it as recently as April, it emerged yesterday.

The possibility that MPs would urge the health secretary to amend the Care Bill to implement such a move emerged yesterday at a Commons health committee hearing when the parliamentary body’s chair Stephen Dorrell questioned the CQC’s chief executive David Behan and chair David Prior.

Mr Dorrell asked: “If this committee were to commend to the house an amendment to one of these bits of legislation coming through having that [patient safety responsibility was given to the CQC] would you be supportive of it?

Mr Prior replied: “In principle we feel that it is something that ought to be with us, not NHS England.”

Nursing Times has previously spoken to patient safety leaders who believe it is wrong that a commissioning organisation such as NHS England oversees the National Reporting and Learning System, the body to which ‘never events’ are reported. It was previously hosted by the National Patient Safety Agency until the organisation was abolished in 2011 and its functions transferred to NHS England. In his report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, Robert Francis QC recommended the NRLS should be hosted by the Health and Social Care Information Centre rather than NHS England.

Later in the hearing, committee member David Tredinnick said whistleblowers could not expose poor care because NHS trusts operated under “a kind of mafia code…where you do anything against the status quo of the organisation and you are finished”. He added: “That is something that surely needs to be broken.”

Mr Prior agreed that there had been a culture of fear in the NHS over speaking out in the past. In the case of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, he said: “The most chilling phrase, after the Francis report into Mid Staffs, was a very distinguished clinician saying ‘Where were the doctors?’.”

He added: “For years this dreadful care went on and no doctor put his head above the parapet. Why is that? In part, the answer is they are frightened. Even if you an alpha male surgeon you are frightened.”

Mr Prior expanded upon the CQC’s new active approach to whistleblowers, as revealed by HSJ last week. He said: “I think how we enable people to raise concerns with us at a much earlier stage in confidence is incredibly important and we have set up a new committee of our board to look precisely at this issue.”

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