Since the 2015 Morecambe Bay Maternity Scandal in which 11 babies and one mother died, NHS Trusts have a duty to share the details of external reviews in to treatment provided to patients with regulators.
An investigation by BBC One’s Panorama has however revealed that, in many cases, this has not happened, leading to Hospitals being accused “disgraceful secrecy” and of burying the results of dozens of expert investigations raising serious patient safety concerns.
In investigating the issue Panorama submitted freedom of information requests to all NHS Trusts in the UK requesting details of any reviews undertaken by Royal Colleges such as the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the last 5 years.
As a result of the request 111 reports were identified (100 in England, 6 in Northern Ireland, 4 in Scotland and 1 in Wales) and 80 were released to the BBC. Of the 80 reports shared with the BBC, just 16 (20%) were publicly available and only 26 (about 33%) had been shared fully with regulators.
Partner and Solicitor, Simon Mansfield, commented as follows:
Reports of this nature are commissioned to identify and find solutions to patient safety issues. Openness is key to improving patient safety and, in this context, it is extremely concerning that there appears to be widespread secrecy over the results of these investigations and, in some circumstances, a failure at upon their recommendations.
As the BBC highlights, presently, whilst both hospital trusts and professional bodies undertaking reviews have a responsibility to ensure that issues raised in an invited review are shared with Care Quality Commission (CQC), the CQC do not have the legal power to compel trusts to share the reports or make the trust implement any recommendations. There is a clear expectation that there should be transparency but the results of this investigation indicate that this may be enough.
To ensure that lessons are learned when issues arise all independent reviews should be made available to health regulators and the wider public. If trusts are not willing to do this voluntarily there should be, as others have argued, a new legal duty put on trusts to publish them.
You can watch the full report tonight on BBC One at 19.30.
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