NHS medical accidents investigation unit 'needed'

By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent

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A national body to investigate medical accidents in England should be established immediately, MPs say.

The House of Commons Public Administration select committee said the service was needed because of the scale of the problems in the NHS.

The cross-party group of MPs said the current patient safety system was "too complicated" and "took too long".

It comes just weeks after the government announced it was considering setting up such a service.

Ministers conceded such changes may be needed following publication of the Morecambe Bay hospital inquiry into baby deaths.

The report revealed that 11 babies and one mother had died unnecessarily at Cumbria's Furness General Hospital, but the scandal had gone unchecked for years as patients fought to expose what was happening.

The committee said this and the Stafford Hospital scandal showed there should be no more delays.

It is estimated that there are 12,000 avoidable hospital deaths every year, and more than 10,000 serious incidents are reported to NHS England annually, including 338 "never events" such as surgery being carried out on the wrong part of the body.

Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin said for years it had been "evident that the NHS has urgent need of a simpler and more trusted system".

"There needs to be investigative capacity so that facts and evidence can be established early, without the need to find blame, and regardless of whether a complaint has been raised."

Currently responsibility for investigating patient safety is shared between the Care Quality Commission and Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman at a national level and local arrangements run by NHS trusts themselves.

Peter Walsh, of Action against Medical Accidents, said changes to the system were "much needed".

The Department of Health said it would respond in "due course".

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