Serious concerns raised about senior NHS leaders’ approach to patient safety


  • 18th July 2022

(London, UK, 18 July 2022) In a letter shared with Patient Safety Learning, Keith Conradi, outgoing Chief Investigator at the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), has raised serious concerns with the Secretary of State about the lack of interest shown in the patient safety activities of HSIB at the highest levels of the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

Keith Conradi states that successive leaders of NHS England have shown “little interest” in the work of HSIB. He also highlights concerns about NHS England’s engagement in several HSIB investigations delayed by the pandemic, stating that a lack of participation has “reduced the safety impact of their output”.

The letter calls for the Department of Health and Social Care to take a safety management system approach to safety, like other safety critical industries such as aviation. Keith Conradi notes that currently where patient safety is done well in the NHS, this is “because of the drive and enthusiasm of individuals rather than through a state organised structured approach”.

Commenting on this letter, Patient Safety Learning’s Chief Executive Helen Hughes said:

“We believe that HSIB can play an important role in improving patient safety in the NHS, but not without system-wide commitment and support for their work. It is disappointing to hear of this apparent lack of interest in their activities by NHS England.

We were also deeply alarmed by concerns about a lack of engagement by NHS England in HSIB safety investigations reducing their impact. This is simply not acceptable and flies in the face of the NHS Patient Safety Strategy’s vision of seeking to continuously improve patient safety.

We hope that NHS England will seriously rethink its approach to how it works with the national patient safety investigator, and that the new Secretary of State and incoming new Prime Minister seek to reset and re-invigorate our national approach to improving patient safety.”

Notes to editors

  1. Patient Safety Learning is a charity and independent voice for improving patient safety. We harness the knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment of healthcare organisations, professionals and patients for system-wide change and the reduction of harm. We support safety improvement through policy, influencing and campaigning and the development of ‘how to’ resources such as the hub, our free award-winning platform to share learning for patient safety.
  2. HSIB is the independent national investigator for patient safety in England. It seeks to improve patient safety through professional safety investigations that do not apportion blame or liability.

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