Stafford Hospital: NHS boss defends role to MPs

 
Sir David Nicholson Sir David Nicholson told the select committee he had not been aware of the high death rates at Stafford

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"This is not a trial," declared the Labour MP for Walsall South, Valerie Vaz as the Commons Health Select Committee began questioning of the boss of the NHS in England, Sir David Nicholson, about his part in the Stafford Hospital scandal.

But it did not take long for her to launch into a salvo of quickfire questions during which he looked for all the world like the man in the dock.

Was he mainly "a process and procedures man"?

No he was not. He had been involved in the running of hospitals for many years.

Was he aware of death rates at Stafford at the time?

Again, he was not. Mortality rates were not among the main indicators used to measure hospitals' performance then.

But he did have one big regret: that he had not met the Cure the NHS campaigners when concerns first emerged and the Healthcare Commission stepped in to investigate higher than expected death rates there.

Complaints, he said, were "a very important source of information" and it had been a mistake not to follow them up.

Since then, the Cure campaign for him to go has intensified. Members staged an impassioned protest during last week's meeting in Manchester of the NHS Commissioning Board, which was addressed by Sir David himself.

'Not innocent'

Julie Bailey, the prime-mover behind the campaign, denies he is being made a scapegoat.

"A scapegoat takes the blame for something of which he is innocent. David Nicholson is not innocent," she said.

Sir David told the MPs he was not going anywhere. His commitment to the NHS constitution and to its patients made him the best man to see through the challenges facing the health service.

This is certainly not how 20 MPs - who have signed a Commons motion urging him to stand down - see it, among them Jeremy Lefroy (Con) Stafford; Aidan Burley (Con) Cannock Chase; Bill Cash (Con) Stone and Andrew Griffiths (Con) Burton.

But how representative are they?

Sir David Nicholson Sir David Nicholson told the select committee he had not been aware of the high death rates at Stafford

Most MPs I talk to on and off the record, on both sides of the House of Commons, are not convinced his departure would achieve anything.

Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, said that Stafford was really a failure of management within the hospital itself.

As Sir David pointed out time and time again to the committee, he was responsible at that time for the supervision of more than 50 local hospitals across the West Midlands.

No less significantly he retains his support at the top. He has been instrumental in delivering the government's complex health reforms now being rolled out across the NHS.

Minutes after the Health Select Committee hearing, Downing Street said David Cameron had been "impressed by Sir David's knowledge and understanding of the NHS and by what he had delivered in terms of results".

Sir David, they said, had "properly apologised for mistakes made at the time by the regional health authority".

So, "safe for now" appears to be the upshot. But as one former senior health manager told us, don't be surprised if in a year or so from now, once the heat has died down, Sir David quietly steps aside.

 
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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    NICHOLSON in the name of God. Go

  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 10.

    Management in the NHS has been well and truly polluted by the ethos of this man which has trickled down. We need an online petition demanding his immediate dismissal with loss of pension rights

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    There can be no doubt that Nicholson, having taken the money, cannot now deny responsibility for what happened on his watch in Staffs and continues to happen up and down the land. His failure is the measure of a true incompetent, his continued existence in post a measure of his political skills and brass neck.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    !,5 million employees; a state monopoly, no competition.
    If you pick the wrong targets you'll get failure and may not be aware; may even think you're doing well.
    But this wasn't about policy decisions, it was about neglect in hospital. If it were dogs or cats there would be an uproar.
    Fine, blame Nicholson, but what about those further down, right to the front line?
    No excuses.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    I suspect that the reason he gets the "backing" of the government is that they can find no one else to pick up this particular poison chalice. In politics backing can be a short-lived thing. Regardless of the support he gets, he should resign on principle. Anyone remember principles?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 6.

    "As Sir David pointed out time and time again to the committee, he was responsible at that time for the supervision of more than 50 local hospitals across the West Midlands."

    If he was responsible for what went on he should resign.

    "Most MPs I talk to on and off the record, on both sides of the House of Commons, are not convinced his departure would achieve anything"

    It might achieve justice.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 5.

    Same old same old.Take the money,get a gong, be responsible for nothing.The buck never stops at the Chief Executive's desk, there's always somebody lower down the food chain to take the blame.And if, in the final analysis, the incumbent has to move on, he can be assured of an obscenely generous severance package, & a new job down the road at the same-or even more-money.They're all utterly corrupt.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 3.

    People died unnecessarily. Let us be clear PEOPLE DIED. And no one will resign and I'm sure no one will be charged. If a person of note, a politician for example was one of that number, you could be damned sure they would find where the responsibility lay. So wait for the "lessons learned" and "mistakes made" and "preventable tragedy" spiel at the end of all this. And no one will be charged.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 2.

    Its absolutely amazing; what does someone in the Public Sector have to do to get the sack? This man was in charge when all these lives were lost at the Staffordshire Hospital.He says he didn't know all these people were dying. It wasn't one or two...it was like a concentration camp......hundreds.If he didn't know...he should have! Others also bear the responsibility including Andy Burnham.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1.

    This whole issue gets more amazing daily. 'Mortality rates are not a measure of hospital performance'.Are not hospitals there to stop people dying? (dieing?) He regrets not meeting the Cure The NHS campaign. Of course he does. Just like the Tesco boss regrets not having proper tests in place to see who is ripping them off. He should man up or someone should throw the trapdoor lever.

 

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