Will Francis report rebuild trust in Stafford Hospital?

 

It's a measure of the gravity of the report by Robert Francis QC into the Stafford Hospital scandal that the government's response should be delivered by the Prime Minister. This places it alongside the inquiries into Bloody Sunday and the Hillsborough Disaster.

And once again, David Cameron used what is no longer the hardest word in politics. He said he was "truly sorry" for what had happened to the patients and their families who had been victims of these "appalling" failures.

Stafford Hospital families Many of the families travelled to London for the publication of Robert Francis's report

"We need the words of the patient to ring out", said Mr Cameron, announcing a new powerful figure, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals for England, rather like the healthcare equivalent of OFSTED in our schools and colleges.

He also wants the rules to be toughened-up so that managers can be sacked if patient care falls below what Mr Francis calls "fundamental standards".

But a deeper question forming in my mind as I listened to the Prime Minister came into sharper focus during the interview I have just completed with Mr Francis himself.

He told me how "distressing" he had found the culture of secrecy and complacency which led to thousands of patients being cruelly neglected and 400 others, possibly many more than that number, dying dreadful deaths that could have been avoided if only the hospital had been functioning properly.

His answer is a greater transparency, a "duty of candour", and an emphasis on compassion at the heart of the so-called "caring services", especially nursing.

Invaluable though these qualities undoubtedly are, how can you legislate for them, especially when the government is engrossed in the latest radical NHS shake-up?

Stafford Hospital reception The government say they will now take stock of Mr Francis's findings

As the political debate develops, I expect Labour will stress the impact of the so-called "Lansley reforms" on the process of applying the lessons to the NHS as a whole.

Equally the Conservatives will be focussing on the target-driven agenda imposed by the then Labour government which they say put undue pressure sure on managers to slash budgets and cut staffing levels in pursuit of NHS Foundation Trust status.

The government say they will now take stock of Mr Francis's findings and so will we, on this weekend's Sunday Politics programme.

I will be joined by arguably the most powerful person in the health service in our part of the country, Dame Julie Moore, the Chief Executive of University Hospitals Birmingham. Also with me will be the Conservative MP for Stourbridge Margot James and the Liberal Democrat MP for Solihull Lorely Burt.

And I hope you will join us too, from 11:00 on BBC One this Sunday, 10 February 2013.

 
Patrick Burns, Political editor, Midlands Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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