The Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has appointed Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE as the first ever Patient Safety Commissioner for England. Adding to and enhancing existing work to improve the safety of medicines and medical devices, the appointment of a commissioner is in response to the recommendations from Baroness Cumberlege’s review into patient safety, published in 2020.
Dr Hughes will be an independent point of contact for patients, giving a voice to their concerns to make sure they are heard. She will help the NHS and government better understand what they can do to put patients first, promote their safety, and the importance of their views and other members of the public.
Bringing with her a wealth of experience in patient care as the National Guardian for the NHS, where she encouraged staff to speak up and supported whistle-blowers, Dr Hughes will be a champion for patients. She will continue to practise as a GP and chair of Childhood First, a charity that promotes and furthers the care, treatment and rehabilitation of children and adolescents.
Henrietta Hughes says: “I am humbled and honoured to be appointed as the first Patient Safety Commissioner. This vital role, recommended in First Do No Harm, will make a difference to the safety of patients in relation to medicines and medical devices.
“Patients’ voices need to be at the heart of the design and delivery of healthcare. I would like to pay tribute to the incredible courage, persistence and compassion of all those who gave evidence to the report, their families and everyone who continues to campaign tirelessly for safer treatments.
“I will work collaboratively with patients, the healthcare system and others so that all patients receive the information they need, all patients’ voices are heard and the system responds quickly to keep people safe.”
The First Do No Harm report, led by Baroness Cumberlege and published in 2020, explored issues relating to the use of Primodos, sodium valproate and pelvic mesh, and was commissioned because women did not feel listened to or their concerns acknowledged. It highlighted the need to better protect and listen to patients and recommended the creation of an independent Patient Safety Commissioner.
This appointment was made following an open competition, in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments, and following a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing with the Health and Social Care Committee.