NHS staff should take personal responsibility for mistakes, MPs say

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MPs from across the House have said systems of accountability in the NHS need to improve if patients are to have confidence in the service.

Leading a debate on 14 March 2013, Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie declared: "If talk of accountability in this chamber is to have any credibility at all - especially for those individuals who have buried loved ones while government, departmental and NHS individuals buried the truth - actions must have consequences."

She highlighted a report written five years ago by Professor Don Berwick - recently appointed to improve patient responsibility by the prime minister - that drew attention to "a widespread culture of fear and compliance" in the NHS.

A backbench business motion tabled by Ms Leslie along with other Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour backbenchers stated: "It is clear that accountability and transparency are of paramount importance to patient safety and trust in the NHS...NHS individuals found to have breached those principles should face the appropriate consequences."

Conservative chair of the Health Committee Stephen Dorrell backed the motion, arguing: "There needs to be a fundamental culture change through the whole of the NHS."

John Pugh, a Lib Dem, said the NHS is "full of very good people but not yet staffed by saints" and expressed a hope that more problems could be resolved through "frank admission of individual error".

But former health secretary and Labour MP Alan Johnson defended his government's introduction of waiting list targets, saying they were necessary "to get a grip on this terrible situation of lack of access to healthcare".

'Errors of judgment'

Earlier, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanded an apology for mistakes which he said led to the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

"Until we have a proper apology, not just for what happened but for the catastrophic policy mistakes your party made, no one will believe you wouldn't make the same errors of judgment again," Mr Hunt said, addressing Labour.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham replied that he was "concerned about the timetable for the government response" to the Francis report on Stafford Hospital.

He also asked the government to be mindful of staff morale when implementing the Francis report's recommendations, saying: "Hospital and NHS staff are not coasting. They are working flat out with some coping better than others with the pressure they are under."

The health secretary committed to delivering the government's formal response to the Francis report later this month, which he said would "detail how we intend to restore accountability to the boards of hospitals".

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