The Department of Health has announced the launch of a package of measures aimed at holding NHS healthcare professionals to higher standards of safety and openness.
To protect the NHS's status as one of the safest healthcare systems in the world, the government has confirmed that Sir Robert Francis QC will chair a new independent review into the reporting culture in the NHS, looking at how staff on the frontline can be supported to raise concerns.
Sir Robert - who led the public inquiry into failings at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust - will examine what further action could be necessary to protect NHS workers who speak out on poor practice, ensuring whistleblowers are protected and their concerns acknowledged.
Furthermore, a new NHS Choices safety microsite will be established to give patients, regulators and staff access to unprecedented amounts of safety data, making it easier than ever to look at safety and staffing data for hospitals across the country. This move is expected to help promote competition and drive up standards.
Finally, a campaign called Sign Up to Safety will be launched with the aim of driving up safety standards throughout the NHS, halving avoidable harm and saving up to 6,000 lives over the next three years.
All NHS trusts are invited to join the initiative and develop improvement plans that, if approved by the NHS Litigation Authority, will see them receive a financial incentive to support its implementation. 12 trusts are already developing strategies that will outline how they intend to reduce avoidable harm and save lives.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We have come a long way since Mid-Staffordshire. However, there are too many cases where NHS staff who have raised concerns about safety have been ignored. Today, we have introduced measures to help tackle this head on."
The announcements have been broadly welcomed by the British Medical Association, though it cautioned that any reforms in this area should contribute to a culture of support and improvement, rather than blame.
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