Leading article: The real lessons of this NHS disaster
Thursday, 25 February 2010
The Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, yesterday described the appalling treatment of patients at Stafford hospital as "ultimately a local failure". This misses the point. For one thing, Stafford is not the only NHS hospital that has put patients' lives at risk in recent years. Basildon and Colchester hospitals were also discovered to have jeopardised safety in 2009.And:
What is more, Mr Burnham's efforts to quarantine this disaster suggest an unwillingness to face up to the scale of the problem that has been revealed. The failure in Stafford is not just the tale of one badly run hospital, but the failure of a regulatory system that did little to sound the alarm until very late in the day. From 2005 to 2008 Stafford hospital was judged by regulators and the Government to be performing well. It passed many inspections and the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust even achieved foundation status, supposedly the benchmark of excellence.
Yet as yesterday's independent report on Stafford by Robert Francis QC outlines, the hospital was, during this time, drastically cutting staffing budgets and leaving patients to fester in soiled sheets. How did the inspectors miss this? The report says the hospital's management was pre-occupied with cost-cutting and meeting crude targets set by Whitehall. But so too, it would seem, were the regulators. The trust appears to have been judged on the quality of its balance sheet rather than the quality of care offered to patients.
The regulators not only turned a blind eye to the cost cuts, they seem to have rewarded the Trust for it. It is true that the Healthcare Commission, did, in the end, sound the alarm over Stafford after being alerted to higher than usual death rates. But that does not excuse the fact that it – along with other monitoring bodies – missed the problem for years, during which hundreds of patients died needlessly. The NHS's regulators clearly need to overhaul their own procedures.
As for ministers, rather than attempting to present what occurred in Stafford as an isolated example of bad practice, they should examine how their own targets contributed to the distortion of care on the ground. Lessons will never be learnt while the authorities insist on burying their heads in the sand.
Up to 1,200 needless deaths, patients abused, staff bullied to meet targets... yet a secret inquiry into failing hospital says no one's to blame
By Fay Schlesinger, Andy Dolan and Tim Shipman
UK Daily Mail
Last updated at 1:45 PM on 25th February 2010
Not a single official has been disciplined over the worst-ever NHS hospital scandal, it emerged last night.This story continues and I urge you read the entire article. It's scary stuff....
Up to 1,200 people lost their lives needlessly because Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust put government targets and cost-cutting ahead of patient care.
But none of the doctors, nurses and managers who failed them has suffered any formal sanction.
Indeed, some have either retired on lucrative pensions or have swiftly found new jobs.
Former chief executive Martin Yeates, who has since left with a £1million pension pot, six months' salary and a reported £400,000 payoff, did not even give evidence to the inquiry which detailed the scale of the scandal yesterday.
He was said to be medically unfit to do so, though he sent some information to chairman Robert Francis through his solicitor.
The devastating-report into the Stafford Hospital-shambles' laid waste to Labour's decade-long obsession with box-ticking and league tables.
The independent inquiry headed by Robert Francis QC found the safety of sick and dying patients was 'routinely neglected'. Others were subjected to ' inhumane treatment', 'bullying', 'abuse' and 'rudeness'.
The shocking estimated death toll, three times the previous figure of 400, has prompted calls for a full public inquiry.
Bosses at the Trust - officially an 'elite' NHS institution - were condemned for their fixation with cutting waiting times to hit Labour targets and leaving neglected patients to die.
But after a probe that was controversially held in secret, not a single individual has been publicly blamed.
The inquiry found that:
• Patients were left unwashed in their own filth for up to a month as nurses ignored their requests to use the toilet or change their sheets;
• Four members of one family. including a new-born baby girl. died within 18 months after of blunders at the hospital;
• Medics discharged patients hastily out of fear they risked being sacked for delaying;
• Wards were left filthy with blood, discarded needles and used dressings while bullying managers made whistleblowers too frightened to come forward.
Last night the General Medical Council announced it was investigating several doctors. The Nursing and Midwifery Council is investigating at least one nurse and is considering other cases.
Ministers suggested the report highlighted a dreadful 'local' scandal, but its overall conclusions are a blistering condemnation of Labour's approach to the NHS.
It found that hospital were so preoccupied with saving money and pursuit of elite foundation trust status that they 'lost sight of its fundamental responsibility to provide safe care'.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham accepted 18 recommendations from Mr Francis and immediately announced plans for a new inquiry, to be held in public, into how Department of Health and NHS regulators failed to spot the disaster.
But Julie Bailey, head of the campaign group Cure the NHS, condemned his response as 'outrageous' and backed Tory and Liberal Democrat demands for a full public inquiry into what went wrong.
Tory leader David Cameron said: 'We need openness, clarity and transparency to stop this happening again.' Gordon Brown described the scandal as a 'completely unacceptable management failure' and revealed that the cases of 300 patients are now under investigation.
He told MPs the Government was belatedly working on plans to 'strike off' hospital managers responsible for failures. The hospital could also lose its cherished foundation status.
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said 'These awful events show how badly Labour has let down NHS patients. It should never again be possible for managers to put a tick in a box marked "target met" while patients are pushed off to a ward and left to die.'
The Francis probe was launched following a Healthcare Commission report on Stafford Hospital in March last year. It found that deaths at the hospital were 27 to 45 per cent higher than normal, meaning some 400 to 1,200 people died unnecessarily between 2005 and 2008.
Stafford Hospital caused ‘unimaginable suffering’
David Rose, Health Correspondent
February 25, 2010
Patients were routinely neglected or left “sobbing and humiliated” by staff at an NHS trust where at least 400 deaths have been linked to appalling care.Again, it goes on and I suggest (assuming you think you can stomach it) you finish reading the article.... To say that government run healthcare is corrupt, dysfunctional and horribly managed is an understatement. Too which I respond to all the pro-single payer system supporters: "What makes you believe it will be any different here in the US?"
An independent inquiry found that managers at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust stopped providing safe care because they were preoccupied with government targets and cutting costs.
The inquiry report, published yesterday by Robert Francis, QC, included proposals for tough new regulations that could lead to managers at failing NHS trusts being struck off.
Staff shortages at Stafford Hospital meant that patients went unwashed for weeks, were left without food or drink and were even unable to get to the lavatory. Some lay in soiled sheets that relatives had to take home to wash, others developed infections or had falls, occasionally fatal. Many staff did their best but the attitude of some nurses “left a lot to be desired”.
The report, which follows reviews by the Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health, said that “unimaginable” suffering had been caused. Regulators said last year that between 400 and 1,200 more patients than expected may have died at the hospital from 2005 to 2008.
Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, said there could be “no excuses” for the failures and added that the board that presided over the scandal had been replaced. An undisclosed number of doctors and at least one nurse are being investigated by the General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Mr Burnham said it was a “longstanding anomaly” that the NHS did not have a robust way of regulating managers or banning them from working, as it does with doctors or nurses. “We must end the situation where a senior NHS manager who has failed in one job can simply move to another elsewhere,” he added. “This is not acceptable to the public and not conducive to promoting accountability and high professional standards.”
A system of professional accreditation for senior managers would be considered and the Mid Staffordshire trust might lose its foundation status.
Some NHS chief executives have received six-figure redundancy packages or moved to other trusts despite poor performance. Martin Yeates, the former chief executive at Mid Staffordshire, received pay rises that took his annual salary to £180,000, while standards at the trust deteriorated.
The Liberal Democrats claimed that he had also received a payoff of more than £400,000 after stepping down last March, though Mr Burnham said he had received “no more than his contractual entitlement”.