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Patient Care (Inquiries)

Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether it is his policy that no inquiries into failures in patient care can be initiated by his Department whilst legal action is pending from patients affected. [108961]

Inquiries set up by the Secretary of State for Health are usually in accordance with the provisions of section 2 or section 84 of the NHS Act 1977. There are no express restrictions on setting up inquiries under these sections while legal action is pending or taking place. These inquiries usually involve wider serious systemic service failures often involving a number of patients across a longer time frame. They are not normally regarded as the appropriate method for investigating an individual incident unless it is so serious as to have implications for National Health Service services more generally or raised health policy issues which have not been satisfactorily addressed before. These incidents are usually investigated under the NHS complaints procedure. Complaints made under the NHS complaints system will be suspended if the subject of the complaint and the case for legal action are the same.