On 3 July 2009 the House of Commons Health Committee issued a report setting out their conclusions on patient safety. Over the past 12 months the committee had received evidence from a wide variety of organisations and individuals concerned with patient safety, from senior Department of Health officials, regulators and academics to patient groups, charities and individual patients and relatives.  

They concluded that patient safety was multifaceted and that, having examined in some detail what they regarded as the most important issues, there were significant deficiencies in current policy. They have recommended several changes that need to be made in order for there to be further progress in tackling unsafe care.  

Whilst highlighting some areas of good practice the committee was highly critical of many aspects of the NHS’s current approach to patient safety, concluding that there has been “insufficient progress in making services safer” and that there are “significant deficiencies in current policy”.  

Particular criticism was levied at government policy stating that it “has too often given the impression that there are priorities, notably hitting targets (particularly for waiting lists, and accident and emergency waiting), achieving financial balance and attaining foundation trust status, which are more important than patient safety. This has undoubtedly, in a number of cases, been a contributory factor in making services unsafe.”

Even Monitor came in for direct criticism. In respect of the case of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust the committee concluded that:  

“Not only did Monitor fail to detect unsafe care – it effectively allowed the trust to compromise patient safety in premature pursuit of foundation status. We note the Healthcare Commission found that achieving foundation status was one of the factors that distracted the trust from patient safety issues. Monitor's acceptance at face value of the trust's excuse that its poor mortality figures were a statistical anomaly is wholly unacceptable.”  

A Mills & Reeve briefing on the report can be accessed here.