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Patient safety and the law: looking back and looking forward

09 December 2021
6 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 22


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, picks out some of the highs and lows of patient safety reports in the NHS in England over the past year

As we leave 2021 it is a useful exercise to reflect on some of the seminal patient safety publications and events of the year. When we think about progress towards developing a patient safety culture it is hard to feel particularly upbeat about progress so far, or the future. It has seemed for as long as I can remember that the NHS runs to stand still when it comes to patient safety policy development and practice. The NHS seems to make slow, almost circular progress in patient safety culture development. We can see this through the regular publication by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of inspection reports highlighting major patient safety failings. In 2021 there has been a steady stream of them, on an almost daily basis.

Poor and unsafe maternity care is a feature that stood out in 2021. Maternity care failings have dominated CQC reports and have featured in national media reports. The CQC has stated that there are many maternity units providing excellent care, however:

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