Over the course of four years at Mid Staffordshire hospital, hundreds of patients suffered from appalling neglect and mistreatment. Relatives that voiced concerns were ignored; staff that tried to speak up were silenced. It was a shocking betrayal of trust of patients and their families.
Yesterday Robert Francis QC published his report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The public inquiry lasted more than two years, heard over 250 witness statements, considered over one million pages of documentary evidence, and has produced a report nearly two thousand pages long. It makes 290 separate recommendations.
The story of Mid Staffs, the report says, is one of “terrible and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people who were failed by a system which ignored the warning signs of poor care and put corporate self interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety.” The overriding message is the need for a culture change across the NHS to make sure that patients always come first.
This is a message that the Government has heard. It is one that we are acting on. Achieving culture change across the system is something that will take time, effort and commitment from all involved in the NHS – not just Government but also commissioners, providers and regulators as well as frontline professionals and senior managers.
Yesterday we announced:
• Steps to strengthen the Care Quality Commission and appointing a new Chief Inspector of Hospitals to improve quality in hospitals
• A review of hospitals with high mortality rates so that urgent action can be taken on any Trust where serious concerns are identified
• Introducing minimum training standards for healthcare assistants to ensure staff can provide safe, effective and compassionate care
• A ‘zero harm’ patient safety review led by international expert Don Berwick
• A review of how complaints are handled
These come on top of a number of other steps we are taking to strengthen patients’ voice and to encourage openness and transparency, such as introducing the Friends and Family test, creating a contractual duty of candour, and giving more support for whistleblowers.
As a Liberal Democrat Minister at the Department of Health I am determined to build on these steps to ensure that patient care is the fundamental priority of every part of the system.
The Lib Dem manifesto included a commitment to require hospitals to be open about mistakes, and always tell patients if something has gone wrong. This is something I argued for when we were in opposition, and it is something I will push for within Government. I am also clear that there should be no more rewards for failure – despite the shocking failures of care that occurred at Mid Staffs, the Chief Executive Martin Yeates left with a large compensation pay off.
We know this is an important moment. I think that staff right across the NHS, the Care Quality Commission and other bodies recognise that too. The Government will consider all the report’s recommendations carefully and give a more detailed response next month – but doing what is necessary to promote and embed a culture of care across the whole system is our priority.
* Norman Lamb is MP for North Norfolk and was Liberal Democrat Minister of State at the Department of Health until May 2015