Concern as temporary NHS staff ‘not involved’ in patient safety probes – report

Patient safety could be put at risk as many temporary NHS workers are not included in investigations when things go wrong in healthcare settings, experts have warned.

The Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) said that not involving temporary NHS staff – including bank, agency and locum workers – in serious incident investigations may “undermine” the ability to improve patient safety.

A patient safety incident investigation occurs when patient safety risks are highlighted by an incident or a “near miss”.

A new report by the patient safety watchdog highlights how leaving temporary staff out of patient safety investigations could lead to system-wide problems going “unrecognised” which could mean patient safety incidents could be repeated.

In 18 of the 30 reports the locum, bank or agency staff who were involved in the incident were not involved in the subsequent investigation, and in a further four reports it was unclear whether there had been such involvement.

This could be for a number of reasons, including hospital investigation teams finding it difficult to contact agency staff as their details are held externally.

Meanwhile, some NHS trusts told HSSIB that the investigation of incidents involving temporary staff can be “less thorough”.

The new HSSIB report also suggests that temporary staff at many trusts are not able to report these incidents when they happen under their watch.

HSSIB has made two recommendations to NHS England to help temporary staff be more engaged with patient safety investigations.

Matthew Mansbridge, HSSIB senior safety investigator, said: “Our investigation provides robust evidence that in some cases temporary staff are never involved in a serious incident investigation, even when they may have crucial insight to share.

“We recognise this can happen, even when the provider and staff member have done everything they can. However, we also saw examples of where the barrier to including temporary staff was perceived rather than actual, and there was no strong rationale for why they were not involved.

“Consistency is needed at both a national and local level in relation to the involvement of temporary staff.

“Patients and their families should be assured that any investigation undertaken into what can be life-changing incidents are as complete as possible, capturing the accounts of all staff involved.

“This creates the best environment for learning, system changes and minimising the chance it will happen again.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “It is crucial that all staff, including agency workers, are involved in serious incident investigations so their vital insights contribute to learning.

“We have already updated the guidance we give to healthcare providers to reflect the HSSIB recommendations and will make further changes as needed.”

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