Stafford Hospital: NHS bosses 'should be held accountable'

Stafford Hospital sign The public inquiry heard as many as 1,200 patients could have died needlessly at Stafford 2005-2009

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NHS bosses should be held accountable for the Stafford Hospital scandal, a health expert has said.

Last month ministers announced a series of measures to improve care within the NHS after a public inquiry into a higher than expected number of deaths at Stafford between 2005-2009.

England's former deputy chief medical officer, Prof Aidan Halligan, said the problem went "much deeper" than staff.

He said managers at the top of the NHS should take responsibility.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Prof Halligan said the cultures of "target setting and corner cutting" were set higher up in the health service.

"Too many people in leadership, from whom we ought to expect more, have been willing to bend the truth and re-write facts for their own convenience," he said.

"The roots of this affair go much deeper than those who caused immediate harm to patients."

'Deafening silence'

Prof Halligan also said there had been a "deafening silence" from the medical profession since the release of the Francis report.

The public inquiry, led by Robert Francis QC, found as many as 1,200 patients may have died needlessly after they were "routinely neglected" at the hospital.

It heard many were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

Prof Halligan said senior leaders should have the "conviction to be accountable".

Since the publication of the Francis report, NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson, has faced numerous calls for his resignation.

As well as leading the NHS, he was in charge of the regional health authority responsible for Stafford Hospital during part of the period in question.

Sir David said he wanted to use the latest reforms to improve the NHS and has been backed by the Prime Minister, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and many other senior health officials.

In publishing his report, Robert Francis himself said he was keen to focus on measures to improve care across the NHS and avoid creating scapegoats.

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