Trade unions have welcomed recommendations by the inquiry into the failings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation that staff training, supervision and support be reviewed at all levels.

Robert Francis QC’s  damning report into the shocking neglect of patients at the Stafford Hospital includes 290 recommendations on changes that need to be made across the NHS. He said that the failings went right to the top of the health service and that to prevent the public losing confidence in the NHS, “fundamental” change was needed.

The report highlights the basic necessity for safe staffing levels and for wards to have the right skills mix to deliver high quality, compassionate and dignified patient care.

But it rules out reorganisation, urging instead a change of culture in which everyone, at all levels, work together to shift the culture and adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to poor care.

The inquiry found that hundreds of patients at the Stafford Hospital had died needlessly because of abuse and neglect. Although it is impossible to know how many patients would have survived had they received better treatment, it is known that there were between 400 and 1200 more deaths than would have been expected in the years between 2005 and 2008, according to the inquiry findings.

Recommendations for improving patient care

Of the hundreds of recommendations in the Francis report, five were particularly highlighted:

  • The merger of the regulation of care into one body - two are currently involved
  • Senior managers to be given a code of conduct and the ability to disqualify them if they are not fit to hold such positions
  • Hiding information about poor care to become a criminal offence as would failing to adhere to basic standards that lead to death or serious harm
  • A statutory obligation on doctors and nurses for a duty of candour so they are open with patients about mistakes
  • An increased focus on compassion in the recruitment, training and education of nurses, including an aptitude test for new recruits and regular checks of competence as is being rolled out for doctors

Trust management ignored complaints

Following previous investigations in 2009 and 2010, which had highlighted appalling details of abuse and neglect of patients between 2005 and 2008, this Francis inquiry looked at why the system had not prevented these problems, or at the very least, detected them sooner.

It confirmed that the trust management had ignored patient’s complaints. However, other sectors of the health service had also failed to take action, including.

  • Local GPs and MPs who received complaints, failed to act upon them
  • Local primary care trust and regional health authority were too quick to trust the hospital’s management
  • National regulators did not challenge the management enough
  • The Department of Health was too “remote”, embarking on reorganisations which proved “counterproductive”

Such failings had, the report concluded, created a culture where the patient was not put first by the trust. Instead, the focus had been on cost-cutting and meeting targets, resulting in low staff morale and high sickness absence.

Five more Trusts to be investigated

Within 24 hours of the inquiry findings being made public, the government announced that five more Trusts that had also experienced persistently high death rates would also be investigated. They are

  • Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Linda Millband's, clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons said: “We welcome the key recommendations contained in the Francis report. It is important that the response to these tragic failings at Mid Staffs are responded to in a positive way that protects the ethos, safety and best practice of the NHS and the moral and effectiveness of its staff, while improving patient safety.”

She pointed to the recently launched inquiry into the circumstances around Mr Ian Paterson, the surgeon who subjected hundreds of women to cleavage sparing mastectomies, contrary to national guidelines, at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust hospitals.

“Thompsons currently acts for a number of women who received negligent treatment by Mr Paterson. As with the Francis report, if the inquiry into Paterson is going to be effective it has to address the systems that were in place to monitor the performance of clinicians and the action taken by senior management to ensure that guidelines were adhered to.”

Legal advice on medical negligence compensation, without obligation

Nothing can compensate for the loss or poor care of a loved one, particularly in such appalling circumstances. If you or a family member has been affected by the neglect and poor treatment at the Stafford Hospital, you may be able to claim compensation.

Please contact us on 08000 224 224 to discuss your situation in confidence and without obligation. We have teams of lawyers who specialise in medical negligence compensation claims who are waiting to help you if you have a valid claim.