Patient and family involvement

We are committed to involving patients and families in our safety investigations.

About patient and family involvement

Patient and family involvement is also sometimes referred to as engagement.

The response to a patient safety concern or incident is an opportunity to learn, reduce risk and improve systems across the NHS. Involving the people who have been affected by safety issues in a consistent and effective way is fundamental to bring about patient safety improvements.

Family engagement in our safety investigations involves effective liaison between a patient or family and the investigating team. It covers the whole investigation process from start to finish. Our aim is to effectively involve families and make sure they are central to investigations. Their involvement can vary depending on their preferences. We make sure families are supported to be involved throughout the investigation process.

How we involve patients and families

For the purpose of our investigations ‘family’ can include the individual involved in the investigation and anyone else with a direct and close relationship with that individual.

How patients and families are involved in our investigations varies between our two programmes: national investigations and maternity investigations. However, the underpinning principals are the same:

  • patients and their families are central to our investigation processes
  • we recognise the differing needs of individuals
  • we provide the support required to be part of a patient safety investigation
  • we give information about where additional support can be requested where necessary.

National investigations

When a patient safety concern has been raised with us, after a decision has been made that the criteria for national investigations have been met, we get in touch with those involved so that everyone knows that we are going to begin our investigation. We make sure the patient and their family know what we’re looking at and how they can be involved.

We carry out up to 30 national investigations every year.

Maternity investigations

We investigate incidents that meet the criteria as previously defined within the Each Baby Counts programme or our defined criteria for maternal deaths. We start our maternity investigations once the family has given their consent to access medical records. We then discuss with families how they would like to be involved.

We carry out approximately 1,000 maternity investigations every year.

Find out more on the information for families page.

Sharing our learning

Training courses

In 2021 we developed initial family engagement content for the Level 3 Investigation Education course which was delivered free of charge to NHS trusts.

We’re set to launch further training in Autumn 2022.

National learning report

In September 2020 we published a national learning report titled Giving families a voice: HSIB’s approach to patient and family engagement during investigations.

This report sets out our family engagement process. It also summarised the feedback that we’d received to date from the families who have been involved in our investigations.

The purpose was to share our family engagement process with other healthcare organisations involved in patient safety investigations. We hoped to raise awareness of the value of an effective family engagement process in such investigations.


Contact our patient and family involvement team by emailing