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Written on 4th July 2022 by Richard Money-Kyrle

The departing Chief Investigator of the patient safety watchdog, Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), has been quoted in the media as saying that NHS England’s priorities are elsewhere.  According to the Health Service Journal, Keith Conradi expressed his frustrations about NHS England’s lack of engagement and poor relationship with its patient safety investigator, HSIB, in a farewell interview with Roy Lilley for the Institute of Health and Social Care Management (IHSCM).

Mr Conradi is quoted as saying that, despite heading up HSIB which investigates and advises on patient safety incidents in NHS care, he ‘didn’t think he had ever really spoken to any of the hierarchy in NHS England’ and that ‘their priorities are elsewhere’.  He referred to HSIB’s ambivalent relationship with NHS England, which has only worsened with time. He was shocked by the government’s decision and subsequent pressure on HSIB to take over maternity investigations, before they had a properly developed framework for carrying out their existing patient safety investigations. He attributed HSIB’s initial cultural problems, which were later highlighted by a King’s Fund review in 2019, and included allegations of bullying, sexism and racism, to poor management and difficulties in HSIB’s relationship with HR at NHS England. Pressure to expand the organisation too fast, before it had been set up in a properly structured way, resulted in poor recruitment, inadequate training and unskilled managers. He believed the King’s Fund’s findings were right, and a valuable incentive to improve, albeit expressed in a somewhat biased or unbalanced way.

Looking to the future, Mr Conradi expressed optimism about HSIB’s transformation to HSSIB, an independent statutory arms’ length body with ‘safe space’ powers to investigate non-maternity patient safety incidents, but predicted there will be some ‘interesting battles’ ahead from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

Keith Conradi was a world-renowned investigator at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) before bringing his expertise in safety investigations to HSIB when it launched in 2017. Since then he has overseen more than 58 national patient safety investigations and more than 1900 maternity investigations for HSIB. He is due to retire as HSIB’s Chief Investigator this month. His quoted frustration about top level NHS leaders’ failure to engage with HSIB in its important role as watchdog for patient safety should provide a wake-up call to the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care. Despite countless public inquiries, national ambitions to reduce harm and improve patient safety, and much political rhetoric, it seems that even at the highest level, NHS remains unwilling or unable to learn from its mistakes.

If you have been contacted by HSIB after suffering injury from medical negligence, contact us here to speak to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, for help with responding to HSIB’s investigation and/or advice on making a claim.