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Written on 9th February 2023 by Susan Brown

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced today (February 9th)  in Parliament that there will be a six month delay in the launch of the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) and Maternity and Newborn Safety Investigations Special Health Authority (MNSI).

Until today’s announcement, the new HSSIB and MNSI had been expected to be up and running by April 2023, at which time they would take over the healthcare safety investigations and maternity investigations programmes from the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB). The DHSC has now delayed the launch of HSSIB and MNSI until October 2023 to allow more time for a smooth transition.  

The Health and Care Act 2022 established the new HSSIB as an independent Non-Departmental Public Body which would have greater power to investigate patient safety incidents than the current healthcare watchdog, HSIB.  

The new HSSIB will be able to access the medical records of patients who have been harmed in safety incidents without having to ask for their consent.  HSSIB will also have the power to compel individuals and organisations, such as hospitals or NHS trusts, to cooperate with HSSIB’s patient safety investigations, and to access any evidence that its investigators consider relevant to any investigation.

HSSIB’s enhanced power to carry out investigations under ‘safe space’ protection, remains controversial and subject to criticism and debate. Far from providing the openness and transparency that patients and families need after suffering injury during hospital care, safe space will ensure that any evidence that is gathered in an HSSIB investigation cannot be disclosed, even to the injured patient and their family.

HSSIB will be run by a board of executive and non-executive directors who will be accountable for HSSIB’s management, its investigations and its performance.

HSSIB will not be able to investigate maternity and neonatal (newborn) safety incidents as safe space is not appropriate in these types of cases. In January 2022, DHSC announced that HSIB’s maternity investigations programme would be taken over by a new Special Health Authority, which was later named the Maternity and Newborn Safety Investigations Special Health Authority or MNSI.

Both HSSIB and MNSI were expected to be up and running by April 2023. Following delays in establishing the board and leadership for both organisations, the government has announced that HSIB will continue the work of its national and maternity investigation programmes, hosted by NHS England as usual, until October 2023.

Boyes Turner’s clinical negligence and birth injury specialists are highly experienced in advising and supporting adult patients and the families of children who have suffered avoidable harm during NHS care. We will continue to follow closely and report on the work of HSIB and its new organisations, MNSI and HSSIB.

If you have been seriously injured as a result of medical negligence, or have been contacted by HSIB/HSSIB, MNSI or NHS Resolution following your hospital care, you can speak to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, for advice on how to respond or make a claim, by contacting us here.