Sir Robert Francis QC has been seeking the views of health workers and associated agencies who have had experiences - both good and bad - of raising concerns in the NHS.
The consultation, which ran until 10 September, formed part of the review Freedom and Responsibility to Speak Up: An Independent Review into Creating an Open & Honest Reporting Culture in the NHS.
The review was set up as part of a package of measures announced in June to consider what further action is necessary to protect NHS workers who speak out in the public interest and help to create the kind of open culture that is needed to ensure safe care for patients.
In particular Sir Robert was looking to hear from:
- NHS workers who have successfully raised concerns at work as well as those who have felt deterred from doing so
- People who have supported colleagues who have raised concerns
- Those who say they have suffered detriment as a result of raising legitimate concerns, or supporting others who have raised concerns
- Employers, trade unions, professional and system regulators and professional representative bodies
- Organisations who support those who raise concerns
He also invited suggestions on how to create the right culture in which people feel safe to speak up without fear of recrimination.
The package of measures follows the report, also by Sir Robert Francis, of the public inquiry into events at Mid-Staffs. Other initiatives included:
- The NHS Choices safety website - a new microsite which gives patients, regulators and staff unprecedented safety data.
- The seven safety indicators will allow people to look at safety and staffing data across the country, driving up competition and standards.
- The launch of the Sign up to Safety campaign: Sir David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust is leading a major patient safety campaign which aims to halve avoidable harm, and in doing so save up to 6,000 lives over the next three years.
The announcement was followed in July by the introduction of legislation to introduce fundamental standards for health and social care providers. Subject to parliamentary approval, they will become law in April 2015.
A study by the Commonwealth Fund earlier in the year ranked the UK first in the world for quality of care, including safety. However, according to the Department of Health, healthcare systems around the world continue to have high levels of avoidable harm.
Tackling unsafe care and avoidable harm such as medication errors, blood clots and bed sores will not only improve patient outcomes but will save the NHS money that can be reinvested into patient care. A 2007 study estimated the cost of adverse events due to medication errors at £774m per year and the NHS currently spends around £1.3bn per year on litigation claims.