Stafford Hospital: Health Secretary Hunt agrees to dissolve trust

Stafford Hospital in February 2013 A public inquiry was triggered at Stafford Hospital after a higher than expected number of deaths at the trust

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has backed calls to dissolve the trust that runs the scandal-hit Stafford Hospital.

Mr Hunt said Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust would be scrapped and, while its two hospitals would remain open, many services would move to other hospitals.

The trust has been in administration since April when services were deemed "unsustainable" by watchdog Monitor.

However, campaigners who oppose the move said they may challenge the decision in the courts.

Administration is a pretty brutal and - for the NHS - quick process. In years gone by, troubled trusts would have limped on regardless.

But the landscape has changed. With the health service under pressure to be as efficient as possible, there is now a growing acceptance that action is needed to deal with unsustainable trusts.

And so, less than a year after this process was started, the health secretary has signed off the dismantling of this trust.

Mid Staffordshire, like many small trusts, has struggled to attract staff and patients. But its financial viability has also been hit by the scandal over poor care from 2005 to 2009.

However, this is only the second time the process has been used in the health service. The first was in 2012 when administrators went into South London Healthcare. That ended with one of the key elements of the plans - the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital - being overturned in court.

NHS bosses are confident this will be a much more straightforward process from now on by comparison - unlike in south London other trusts are not losing services.

That will no doubt elicit mixed emotions in the town with a number of locals unhappy at what they see as the demonising of their hospital trust despite the scale of the scandal that has engulfed it. But for the rest of the health service it will act as a shot across the bows.

Under the plans, Stafford and Cannock Chase Hospitals would be "operated by other local providers".

Mr Hunt said the changes would "secure the safe and high-quality services that the people of Stafford deserve having endured years of uncertainty and failures in care".

He added: "I want Stafford to be a proper district hospital that continues to meet the needs of patients nearby, including for emergency care and births."

He said he wanted to dissolve the trust "as soon as possible" to stabilise local health services.

'A toxic name'

Stafford could still retain consultant-led maternity services after Mr Hunt agreed to NHS England carrying out a review into the issue.

The original plan from administrators had been for maternity services to close but this was later amended to allow for the creation of a midwife-led unit.

Mr Hunt has now agreed to review that decision to see whether consultant-led services - needed for more difficult births - should be retained.

The trust was criticised in February 2013 in a public inquiry headed by Robert Francis QC for causing the "suffering of hundreds of people" under its care between 2005 and 2008.

The inquiry criticised the cost-cutting and target-chasing culture that had developed at the trust.

Receptionists were left to decide which patients to treat, inexperienced doctors were put in charge of critically ill patients and nurses were not trained how to use vital equipment.

Cases have also been documented of patients left crying out for help because they did not get pain relief and food and drinks being left out of reach.

Data shows there were between 400 and 1,200 more deaths than would have been expected between 2005 and 2008, although it is impossible to say all of these patients would have survived if they had received better treatment.

The inquiry made 290 recommendations aimed at tackling the wider cultural problems in the NHS.

Support Stafford Hospital campaigners There is a vocal local campaign group in support of Stafford Hospital

Sue Hawkins, from the Save Stafford Hospital group, said: "We were expecting the trust to dissolve.

"We understood from the outset that would be the case but we are a semi-rural area and people are going to have to travel long distances to receive care.

"It's been a very lengthy process. I wouldn't wish this on any other hospital."

Cheryl Porter, another campaigner, said the decision to move services was "unacceptable for a community of this size". She argued hospitals in Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton and Walsall were "not ready" to take the extra patients.

David Cameron backed the retention of consultant-led maternity services at the hospital

Gail Gregory, from Stafford, whose husband is being treated at the hospital, said she had expected the decision because the trust had a "toxic name".

She said: "The hospital has been made a guinea pig for new government policies." She blamed the poor care on "the rush to Trust status".

Start Quote

In some ways it's good that we have still got a hospital; two years ago we thought we might lose it”

End Quote Councillor Ann Edgeller Stafford Borough Council

She added: "Fifty thousand local people know the value of their hospital and this fight is not over."

'A bitter blow'

Stafford Borough councillor Ann Edgeller said she was pleased the hospital would remain in Stafford but there was still a lot to do to keep essential services.

"In some ways it's good that we have still got a hospital; two years ago we thought we might lose it," she said.

"The most disappointing thing is not knowing what will happen to paediatric and maternity services.

"It's something we've got to fight for - there are a lot of new houses being built not half a mile away from Stafford Hospital and it worries me that UNHS might not be able to cope."

Stafford's Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy said local accountability on the trust board was crucial.

"We must now see a merger with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire and Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust and not a takeover," he added.

Support Stafford Hospital campaigners The Support Stafford Hospital group says the fight for services 'is not over'

Maggie Oldham, chief executive of the trust, said she wanted to "pay tribute" to staff at the hospitals.

"Mid Staffs has come a long way over the past few years and I am very proud of all of our staff and what they have achieved," she said.

"I would also like to remind patients that we are still working as usual and that they should please keep their appointments and keep using the services provided at Stafford and Cannock Chase Hospitals."

Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: "While this will undoubtedly be a bitter blow for campaigners, it is also an opportunity to show how the county can now lead the way in demonstrating how integrated hospital and community care can be both delivered safely and meet the highest standards."

Christina McAnea, head of health for Unison, said the decision was "bitterly disappointing" for the local community and staff.

"The facts show patient care has improved massively," she said.

"If key services are to be transferred to neighbouring trusts, it is vital that they are given the financial resources needed to take on the extra responsibility."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    The NHS has not changed since its Dickens like abuses of vulnerable patients at Ely Hospital in the 60s.

    How many more abuse scandals must happen until we acknowledge; socialism doesn't work?

    As LASIK surgery proves; market competition results in cheaper and better outcomes every year, unlike the NHS. But, be wary of botched anti-competitive "privatisation;" as in energy, utilities, and trains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    John Charlton #453:

    "There is a private clinic near me carrying out 95% of its work on NHS patients to a high standard. What's wrong with that?"

    What is wrong with many of them is that they only want to cherry-pick the simple straightforward cases, and leave the complicated stuff to the NHS. I have got so fed up with this that I now advise my patients to avoid these providers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    @453: Ahhh, yes, the argument that the NHS is getting worse therefore we need to privatise it even more.

    The problem is that the NHS has been getting worse precisely because of privatisation, where private companies end up holding the taxpayer to ransom and NHS costs go up.

    Be warned, a US style healthcare system with chip and pin in every ambulance is creeping up on us very quietly.

  • Comment number 461.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    How have you managed to reach that conclusion?
    What new strategies?
    Yes the NHS is being privatised - low key but swift - lots of MP's from all parties will be benefiting from their ”consultancy” work.

    Presumably then Clarice, you are sickened to the core by Hunt's unbelievable hypocrisy - how can he encourage whistle blowers and simultaneously censor the NHS Risk Register ?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    "453. John Charlton" either misunderstands what Hunt is attempting to do to our NHS, or he supports some other unstated agenda. Unable to overtly hand over the NHS to private profiteers, Conservative policy has, over recent years been modified to pick off first the 'peripheral' services, then to underfund in such a way that some core services will inevitably 'fail'. Get the useless managers out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    60. Mark_from_Manchester
    Obviously the Left whingers on HYS think killing a thousand people through willful neglect is not enough reason to disband an NHS trust.
    Sometimes, you really have to wonder what goes through their tiny minds.

    Err, there's one unjustified assumption there - and it isn't the word 'tiny'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    re 453 - so a private clinic relies on 95% of it's income from publicly funded (NHS) clients?
    Surely that would be an argument to make the said clinic go the extra 5% and make it 100% publicly funded - ie - an NHS clinic?

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    451 Billythefirst

    This isn't about climate change, you're on the wrong thread

    I'm sure Jeremy Vine did a Panorama on this some years ago, highlighting how a nurse whistle blower brought this subject to light, and was apparently sacked for doing it. Well then, years later it rears it's ugly but necessary head. It's just a very great pity that it took so long to be identified and acted upon

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Can we scrap Jeremy Hunt too ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Tc1234 #446:

    "As for the nhs, it takes a lot of effort to get 1m socialists working in the organisation to follow an ideology against their principles..."

    Too damn right. It is absolutely against my principles that the NHS should be turned into a system for the sick to be exploited as a revenue-generating resource for the benefit of private enterprise.

    If that makes me a socialist, so be it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    The leftish majority on this topic have swallowed the propaganda that we have the best health system in the world. We don't and we need to adopt new strategies. There is a private clinic near me carrying out 95% of its work on NHS patients to a high standard. What's wrong with that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    How about scrapping the health ministers that were in charge at the time? What's that? You Labour lot like your cheeky cockney Alan Johnson too much to point fingers and dismiss him for incompetence? Just what do you think he was charged with looking after and being paid over £100K/year for? Oh, yeah! Health. He failed. Labour FAILED. You aren't the party of the Health Service, you are fools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Listened to Pickles on climate change - seems there's no doubt about the fact of it in his view - next step is trickier - he has to stop kowtowing to the housebuilders federation over cut price drainage scams for new build. So don't hold your breath...... unless you're in one of the submerged counties of course

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    I fail to understand how this issue has become a left versus right issue on this HYS.
    This is a very specific failure of management @ Stafford that transcends party political lines.
    The correct decision to close the trust involved has been made - and it would have been the correct decision whichever party was in power @ the time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.


    What are you talking about?
    Blue party promotes light touch reg and PFI ......derrrrr
    Red party does same....guess what......still derrrrrr.

    Amazing eh Pol? Think it through.


    I have.
    Labour screwed up and people died.
    Well done for finally admitting it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    447. Billythefirst

    Glad something is balanced

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    Admitting? What are you talking about?
    Blue party promotes light touch reg and PFI ......derrrrr
    Red party does same....guess what......still derrrrrr.

    Amazing eh Pol? Think it through.

    Temperate, not too hot or too cold - ideal in fact for maintaining a balanced moderate outlook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Well the economy seems to be going the right way. Milliband has resorted to climate change as he's run out of ideas and won't admit they have it wrong again

    As for the nhs, it takes a lot of effort to get 1m socialists working in the organisation to follow an ideology against their principles, even if it is for the best.

    At least your not disagreeing that labour started the privatisation

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    444. Billythefirst

    What? and you are being rational? What`s the weather like on your planet?


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