The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) is urging the government to ensure that community pharmacy falls fully within the scope of the government’s proposed Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB).
Plans for the HSSIB, a new body that would have wide-reaching powers to investigate serious patient safety incidents, are set out in the draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill, which was laid before Parliament on 14 September 2017.
The draft Bill says that the HSSIB will be independent of the NHS and at arm’s length from government. Most importantly, the HSSIB will protect the information it gathers through investigations from disclosure.
The aim is to create a ‘safe space’ where patients, families and staff, can share information in the knowledge that it will not be disclosed, except in limited circumstances, or by order of the High Court. This model is already used in the safety-critical rail, aviation and marine industries.
Under the parliamentary proposals after each investigation is completed, the HSSIB would make recommendations for system-wide learning across the NHS, help develop national standards on investigations, and provide advice, guidance and training to improve investigative practice across the health service.
The draft bill also proposes to give the HSSIB powers to establish an accreditation system for trusts to conduct safe space investigations themselves.
The PDA said it was essential that private organisations that provide NHS services for profit, such as community pharmacies, were subject to the same level of scrutiny on patient safety as other NHS service providers.
Mark Koziol, chair of PDA, said: “Our members want to provide pharmaceutical services in an environment where patient safety is top priority, but in community pharmacy they can sometimes find their professional responsibilities towards patients at odds with the employer’s drive for profits.
“We want to see the same dramatic improvements in safety that other sectors have achieved through effective investigations bodies. PDA call upon parliamentarians across the political spectrum to ensure this bill includes community pharmacy within the scope of HSSIB.”
While the Bill says HSSIB investigators will be able to enter, inspect and seize documents from premises that provide NHS services, it has a definite focus on secondary care, having been drafted in response to the large patient safety scandals such as those at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. For example, it specifies that the HSSIB could investigate an incident that occurred during the provision of NHS services commissioned from a private hospital, but nowhere in its 51 pages does it mention either general practice or community pharmacy.