The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015
The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 was a private members' bill, put forward by Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy.
The bill contained measures intended to improve the safety and quality of health services and social care. It proposed new rules in relation to professional regulation, information sharing across organisations and avoidable harm to patients.
Causing no avoidable harm
Section 1 sought to impose a duty on the secretary of state for health to introduce regulations 'to secure that services provided in the carrying on of regulated activities cause no avoidable harm'.
The bill originally stated that health services should aim for 'zero harm'. However, the Department of Health intervened to replace this phrase with 'no avoidable harm'.
Setting information standards
Section 2 enabled the secretary of state or the NHS Commissioning Board to set information standards for health and adult social care services in England. It also established the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
Sharing and interpreting information
Section 3 secured the appropriate sharing of information in support of people's direct care in England, and section 4 placed a duty on relevant health or adult social care commissioners and providers to interpret this information correctly.
Protecting the public
Section 5 gave the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, and certain regulators, an overarching objective of public protection. This was to be achieved by:
- promoting best practice among regulators of health and care professionals
- formulating principles of good professional self-regulation
- promoting cooperation between health and care regulators and corresponding bodies.
Concerns were raised over whether the phrase 'no avoidable harm' could still be overly prescriptive and create conflict with existing legislation. During the committee stage, Baroness Finlay said of the wording of the bill: 'The Berwick advisory group has advised that the correct goal is the continual reduction of harm, because patient safety experts report that zero harm is impossible, that cultures must be addressed to reduce harm, and that that is where resources should be focused.
'We must ensure that open, honest and transparent working cultures exist across the NHS, and that the clause does not inadvertently inhibit innovation, which often involves taking controlled risks, and does not stifle open discussion and reporting of errors. We must not legislate in a way that seeks blame and reverses our move towards such an open culture.'
Bill documents - Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015.