Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Will the Francis report be The Watershed for Improvement in Patient Care?

With the anticipated release of the Mid-Staffordshire Public Inquiry on Wednesday it is not only expected to be critical of the underlying failings within the NHS concerning the standard of care at the Mid-Staffordshire hospital between 2005/2008, but across the NHS in general.

Mike Farrar head of the NHS Confederation has stated that the findings of this report will be one of the blackest days for the NHS but that it must be turned into an opportunity to build a better NHS.

The Francis report we hope will lay bare the systemic failings not just with the Mid-Staffordshire hospital, but that of the NHS in general once and for all, and that it will focus on the need to provide a health service centred around the needs of the patient rather than that of the NHS management and of political interference. One that moves the focus away from healthy finances to healthy patients

There can be no excuse for the failings of NHS staff to provide the basics of nursing care (irrespective of training or lack thereof) to patients and that while the first inquiry into the debacle at Mid-Staffordshire hospital highlighted severe failings at the time, this was not the first time such failings had appeared. In 2007 we had the debacle at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells and the then Health Secretary Alan Johnson informed the House of Commons that it was just a one-off, sadly he was wrong, and it wasn’t.

We hope that The Francis report on Wednesday will call for major changes within the NHS, and that it will call for tougher and more frequent inspections of our hospitals and those laws are enacted to prevent cover-ups in the future. The report we hope will call for accountability in the future, for systemic neglect by NHS Managers and staff towards patients and their families, and for failing to whistle blow or raise concerns, and that the bullying culture within the NHS is stamped on by both staff and managers. We believe that an independent system of feedback for staff should be set up so that they can raise concerns regarding care to an organisation outside of Government or the NHS.

We would like to see from the report that there is also a system for patients to raise concerns separate from the regulators, and, that whilst the Government have introduced the family and friends test for hospitals, the system has a severe flaw in that the feedback forms go directly back to the hospital. There needs to be independence on the family and friends test, and all forms should be sent to an independent organisation for confidentiality and impartiality, with recommendations going back to hospitals from this third party. We believe this independent party must not be part of any Governmental or NHS body.

We hope that the Francis report is also critical of those who were in charge of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority at the time of the debacle at Mid-Staffordshire hospital. Those being both Sir David Nicholson and the former Head of the Care Quality Commission, Cynthia Bowers who incidentally disbanded the Care Quality Commission’s highly respected 20 strong central investigations team. Apologies from these individuals would be a beginning, but hollow, however, if in the future anyone holding position of such authority is not held accountable for blatant systemic failings, such as those that happened under their watch.

Although we believe the Francis report will fail to mention the roles of former Health Ministers, we believe that present and former Health Ministers must hold some responsibility and accountability for what happened at Mid-Staffordshire hospital. The Care Quality Commission has seen its funding reduced significantly over the past few years leading to the number of inspections of our healthcare facilities to drop dramatically.

We hope that the Government and the Health Ministers will support and enact the recommendations of the Francis report and that the finger pointing from both Government and opposition MP’s is replaced by co-operation to fully enact the recommendations. Failure to do so will reflect on our elected representatives as point scoring and the disdain for the 1,200 patients who died needlessly and the needs of their families to see that their sacrifice was not in vain.

Derek Butler
MRSA Action UK
Tel No 07762-741114
email: derek.butler@mrsaactionuk.net

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