The new role has been created in response to recommendations in the 2020 Cumberlege report, Do No Harm
“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.” Dr Henrietta Hughes, patient safety commissioner
Dr Henrietta Hughes has been appointed as England’s first patient safety commissioner, tasked with improving how the health care system listens to patients.
The decision to create a patient safety commissioner role is a response to the recommendations from Baroness Cumberlege’s review into patient safety, published in 2020.
Hughes, who has previously been the national guardian for the NHS, will act as a champion for patients and lead a drive to improve the safety of medicines and medical devices. She will be an independent point of contact for patients, giving a voice to their concerns to make sure they are heard. Hughes will also help the NHS and government better understand what they can do to put patients first, and promote the importance of listening to the views of patients and other members of the public.
She will continue to work as a GP and chair of Childhood First, a charity that promotes and furthers the care, treatment and rehabilitation of children and adolescents.
Steve Barclay, the health and social care secretary, said that Hughes brought a “wealth of experience” and that her work would “help support NHS staff as we work hard to beat the Covid backlogs.”
Hughes said: “Patients’ voices need to be at the heart of the design and delivery of health care. 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.”
Baroness Cumberlege’s First Do No Harm report explored issues relating to the use of Primodos, sodium valproate and pelvic mesh, and was commissioned because women did not feel listened to or their concerns acknowledged.
It highlighted the need to better protect and listen to patients and recommended the creation of an independent patient safety commissioner. In July 2021, the government published its formal response to the recommendations set out in the report including a commitment to appoint a patient safety commissioner with a remit covering medicines and medical devices.
“The Cumberlege report First Do No Harm highlighted the role of data and digital in post market surveillance. There is a critical function needed to swiftly develop a stance on a range of new technologies and innovation if future harms are to be prevented. Safety and efficacy of digital tools for health and care need more scrutiny and appropriate regulation. Such potential harms are different from medical device and pharmaceutical harms and patient safety shouldn’t be limited to the boundaries of medicines and medical devices. This is a positive step but more is needed for ongoing patient safety in a rapidly changing market.”