This page explains how we use and protect your information when you use our website and when you share a health safety incident with us. It also explains the principles we follow to ensure that we maintain the need for privacy while being able to improve patient safety through effective and independent investigations and shared learning.
Our website does not allow our visitors to communicate with other visitors or access information provided by others. It also does not allow them to post information which can be seen by other people.
If you give us feedback on our website, it will not be visible to other visitors and we will only use it to develop and improve the site. We will keep your actual feedback for six months. After that time, we will delete it but we may keep our analysis of the feedback we receive.
Links to other websites
Our website contains links to other sites which may have different privacy practices. Please be aware of this when you leave our website and read the privacy statements on other sites you visit.
Taking care of the information shared with us
We rely on patients and their families and carers, and staff in the NHS in England, to share information with us about health safety incidents using the safety awareness form on this website. We hold this information in a secure database held on a different IT system.
Once we have begun an investigation we may gather more information from a wide range of people and organisations through interviews and research.
This means we hold a large amount of information in connection with our work. Some of that information is personal, sensitive and confidential. We are committed to safeguarding the information with measures taken to prevent access to it by unauthorised users.
At the same time, we seek to share the learning from our investigations with the general public and with individuals and organisations that are likely to benefit from having access to the information. The information made available to the public will not contain sensitive details, such as a person’s address.
We will balance the need to protect the personal and other information given in confidence, with the benefit of sharing information more widely. We work in accordance with these principles to manage this challenge:
- Integrity – putting the obligations of public service above personal interests.
- Honesty – being truthful and transparent.
- Objectivity – basing findings and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence.
- Impartiality – acting solely according to the merits of the investigation.
- Independence – acting without obligation or direction from external organisations.
- Compassion – treating victims of incidents as we would expect to be treated ourselves.
This means that we will:
- value the information entrusted to us and make sure we respect that trust
- handle the information entrusted to us lawfully, appropriately and in accordance with our values
- let individuals and organisations know how we will use the information they give us
- be clear and open about our approach to sharing and publishing the information we hold
- have effective systems and processes in place to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the information we hold
- make sure our staff understand their responsibilities and handle information properly
- check that we are living up to our promise and report on how we are doing
- ask for feedback on our performance
What happens to the information you give us
What information will we ask you for?
When you let us know about a health safety incident, you will be asked to complete and submit a safety awareness form. If you supply the relevant information we will record your name, address and details of your complaint in a file that we hold on a computer.
How will we use the information about you?
When you let us know about a health safety incident we will ask you to give us your consent to deal with it. This means we can then go ahead and look at the information you give us.
Who will we share your information with?
By giving your consent, you agree that we can share information about the incident you are reporting with the organisation that was involved in the incident, if we undertake an investigation.
We might also ask for advice from someone with specialist knowledge (for example, a health professional).
If you do not want us to share the information you have given us with others, please tell us straight away. Please be aware, however, that this may limit our ability to investigate your complaint.
Sharing your information if we do not investigate the incident
We investigate up to 30 health safety incidents in England each year. This means that the majority of incidents raised with us through the safety awareness form will not result in an investigation. However, even if we do not investigate the incident you tell us about, the information you share with us on the form will be stored in our database. This helps us to build up a rich source of information and data which can allow us to begin to see patterns of poor care or systemic issues.
Information in our database is reviewed on a regular basis by our internal team - and may also be shared with our investigations teams if it is deemed to be relevant to an ongoing investigation about another incident.
Sharing your information so that we can investigate the incident
If we decide to investigate the incident you tell us about and if you do not want to be identified, please make that clear on the form.
We will inform the organisation and any people involved. We will need to share information about the incident and the patient’s details. At the same time, we will usually ask the organisation for more information (including relevant papers and computer records).
Sharing draft reports on an investigation
Towards the end of our investigation, we will share a copy of our draft report with you, the organisation, and any person included in the report. This gives everyone mentioned in the report a chance to comment on our draft findings.
The draft report is confidential. It will contain all the factual information we have gathered.
At this point, the investigator may arrange to meet with the family and others to go through the details of the report.
Publishing final reports, safety actions and safety recommendations
After we receive comments on the draft report, we will send a final report to you, the organisation and anyone mentioned in the report.
We will also publish the report and any related safety recommendations and actions on this website.
Why do we publish the reports, recommendations and actions?
Our purpose is to improve patient safety through effective and independent investigations that do not apportion blame or liability.
The insight generated from our investigations helps raise awareness of issues that the whole healthcare system can learn from. This is to the benefit of everyone who works in it and is cared by it.
Freedom of information
We are a public authority under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the FOI Act). We will not release information we hold about you to other people under this Act. This is because the Data Protection Act 1998 says we cannot release any information we obtain about an incident unless we need to do so to carry out our work.