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GP appointed as first-ever ‘patient safety commissioner’

patient safety commissioner

The Government has confirmed the appointment of Dr Henrietta Hughes as the first-ever patient safety commissioner for England.

The new role was created in response to a recommendation in former health minister Baroness Cumberlege’s review into avoidable harm, published in 2020.

The Government said it will see Dr Hughes be ‘an independent point of contact for patients, giving a voice to their concerns to make sure they are heard’.

She will also ‘help the NHS and government better understand what they can do to put patients first, promote the safety of patients and the importance of the views of patients and other members of the public’, it added.

Dr Henrietta Hughes, who is a practising GP and who was the national guardian for the NHS until 2021, was selected following an open public appointment process.

Dr Hughes said: ‘I am humbled and honoured to be appointed as the first Patient Safety Commissioner. This vital role, recommended in First Do No Harm, will make a difference to the safety of patients in relation to medicines and medical devices. 

‘Patients’ voices need to be at the heart of the design and delivery of healthcare. I would like to pay tribute to the incredible courage, persistence and compassion of all those who gave evidence to the report, their families and everyone who continues to campaign tirelessly for safer treatments.

‘I will work collaboratively with patients, the healthcare system and others so that all patients receive the information they need, all patients’ voices are heard and the system responds quickly to keep people safe.’

Her appointment was scrutinised and approved by the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee last week.

Its chair Jeremy Hunt 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.’

But he added that ‘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 backup 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.’