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The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that HSIB’s imminent handover of its maternity and healthcare safety investigations programmes to the Maternity and Newborn Safety Investigations Special Health Authority (MNSI) and the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) is to be delayed until October 2023. The extended timeframe follows delays in establishing the board and leadership for the new organisations. In the meantime, we can expect HSIB to continue operating as usual.
HSIB’s transformation to HSSIB, and the newly created special health authority, MNSI, was due to be completed by April 2023. MNSI’s and HSSIB’s investigations were also expected to be up and running at that time. The government has now delayed the launch of HSSIB and MNSI by six months to October 2023, to ease operational difficulties for the new organisations by allowing more time for a smooth transition. The decision to delay rather than rush the new organisations into taking over these important investigations is in contrast to the government’s previous approach in pushing HSIB into a rushed takeover of maternity investigations, which was later criticised by HSIB’s former Chief Investigator, Keith Conradi.
You can read more about the history and reasons leading up to the development of the new special health authority for maternity investigations, MNSI, here.
The Health and Care Act 2022 opened the way for the current healthcare watchdog, HSIB, to become a new Non-Departmental Public Body, known as HSSIB, with greater powers to investigate patient safety incidents. HSSIB will be run by a board of executive and non-executive directors, who will be accountable for its management, investigations and performance.
HSSIB’s enhanced powers will allow it to access the medical records of patients who have been injured in safety incidents without obtaining their prior consent. HSSIB will also be able to access any evidence that its investigators consider relevant to any patient safety investigation, and compel individuals and organisations, including hospitals and NHS trusts, to cooperate with its investigations.
HSSIB’s enhanced power to conduct investigations under ‘safe space’ protection remains controversial and has attracted criticism and debate. We know that when patients suffer irreparable harm during hospital care, open and honest communication is crucial in restoring patients’ and families’ trust and beginning the process of making amends. Contrary to these principles, safe space will protect any evidence that is gathered in an HSSIB investigation from disclosure, even to the injured patient and their family.
The government has recognised that safe space is not appropriate for maternity and neonatal investigations. This means that incidents involving serious harm suffered by mothers and babies during maternity and newborn care cannot be investigated using HSSIB’s safe space procedures.
In January 2022, DHSC announced that a new special health authority would be set up to take over HSIB’s maternity investigations programme. This was later named MNSI or the Maternity and Newborn Safety Investigations Special Health Authority. MNSI was expected to begin operating in April 2023 at the same time as HSIB’s transformation to HSSIB. Following yesterday’s announcement in Parliament, HSIB will continue the work of its national and maternity investigation programmes until October 2023, and will be hosted as usual by NHS England.
Boyes Turner’s birth injury specialists are highly experienced in advising and supporting families of mothers and children who have suffered severe, avoidable harm during NHS maternity and neonatal 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 contacted by HSIB, HSSIB, MNSI or NHS Resolution after NHS care, you can talk to us for free and confidential advice by contacting us here. You or your child may be entitled to substantial compensation.
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