Labour wants to improve patient safety after care scandals

The Labour Party is proposing changes to the Health and Care Bill going through parliament

29th September 2021 about a 2 minute read
"Patient safety has been forgotten in this bill. The patient voice has been ignored. Patients are like the ghosts in the machine.” Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary

The Labour Party is to put forward amendments to the government’s Health and Care Bill designed to improve patient safety and increase transparency in the NHS.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, told the Independent newspaper that it was vital the NHS learned from mistakes and improved its record on safety, which he said could only be achieved through greater transparency. Among the changes proposed are a requirement for NHS trusts to publish reports by royal colleges following investigations into clinical services.

The move comes after a string of patient safety crises, including the maternity care scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Problems at the maternity unit had been highlighted in a royal college report, but the trust did not publish, or act on, the report’s findings.

“Patient safety has been forgotten in this bill. The patient voice has been ignored. Patients are like the ghosts in the machine,” Ashworth said.

Patient safety should be the golden thread

The Labour Party will put forward the amendments on patient safety to the Health and Care Bill during committee stage. Ashworth acknowledged that the amendments could be outvoted because of the government’s large majority, but said he hoped that Conservative MPs would look “seriously” at supporting the amendments: “We want to put in the bill a framework to deliver greater patient safety, because after all, it should be the golden thread running through every aspect of healthcare delivery.

The party also wants to extend the role of medical examiners, who currently review all deaths in the NHS  not referred to a coroner, to include a requirement to review stillbirths. Parents who have concerns about the care they received during a stillbirth are currently unable to have those concerns addressed by a coroner or an inquest.

Labour will also seek a new duty for the health secretary to produce an annual report on measures to address inequality in maternity services. Black women are four times more likely to die than white women when giving birth.

In a speech to Labour Party conference on Tuesday, Ashworth set out the reforms to health that Labour wants to see delivered, including a broader focus on, and funding for, public health measures.