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News > Alumni > Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE (1987) appointed first ever Patient Safety Commissioner for England

Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE (1987) appointed first ever Patient Safety Commissioner for England

Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE (1987, Medicine) has been appointed the first ever Patient Safety Commissioner for England.
13 Jul 2022
Written by Olivia Tan
Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE (1987, Medicine).
Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE (1987, Medicine).

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 the safety of patients, and the importance of the views of patients 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.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

"It is essential that we put patient safety first and continue to listen to and champion patients’ voices. Dr Henrietta Hughes brings a wealth of experience with her as the first ever Patient Safety Commissioner to improve the safety of medicines and medical devices and her work will help support NHS staff as we work hard to beat the COVID backlogs."

Patient Safety Commissioner Henrietta Hughes said:

"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. In July 2021, the government published its formal response to the recommendations set out in this report including a commitment to appoint a Patient Safety Commissioner with a remit covering medicines and medical devices.

Previously, Dr Hughes held the position of Medical Director for London from 2013 until July 2016 when she was appointed National Guardian for the NHS. Dr Hughes received an OBE in the 2020 New Year Honours List for her work in this role, providing leadership, training and advice for a network of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians who promote transparency and accountability across all NHS trusts. She simultaneously maintained her clinical role as a GP in London, including assisting with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, and in 2019 Dr Hughes she was appointed as a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners. 

Dr Hughes is also Chair of the Institute of Integrated Systemic Therapy – Childhood First, a charity which promotes and furthers the psychotherapeutic care, treatment, and rehabilitation of children and adolescents. Additionally, she is a Non Executive Director for the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.


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