Florence Nightingale said in 1859 “hospitals should do the sick no harm” and yet Mid Staffs showed that principle is not always being upheld in today’s NHS.
Concerns about the culture, organisational management and drive to meet targets were raised in the first independent inquiry behind closed doors. The failings of that trust to protect its patients were so manifold and so appalling that a public inquiry was called for – and took place.
The results of that public inquiry were published this morning and they go beyond just the failings at Mid Staffs to tell us much about the present culture of the NHS – and how it must change if it wants to stop a Mid Staffs from ever happening again.
To pretend that Mid Staffs is the only organisation in the NHS where such harrowing ordeals could occur is a falsehood. In our survey on understaffing published this week, over 80% of the 595 nurses who responded felt there were likely to be “a few” or “many” trusts that could be failing their patients as Mid Staffs did.
So everyone in nursing – and indeed healthcare - must take note of what Francis says if today is to give us a consistently safe NHS, that everyone can be proud to work in.
Nursing care is a major part of those 290 recommendations published this morning.
Mr Francis calls for healthcare assistants to be registered and suggests the Nursing and Midwifery Council should be in charge of their regulation.
He wants a national code of conduct for HCAs and wants them to be clearly identifiable from registered nurses – something many nurses have long called for.
He also mentions the importance of nurse training, and recruiting students with the right values – as well as helping to maintain those values.
What the Francis inquiries have proved to us is that there is no one quick fix.
So little wonder that he has so many recommendations. Everything needs to change for the better, is his message. So he advises making sure patients are allocated a key nurse, keeping ward sisters on the wards so they understand patient care pathways and are more familiar with their patient than their paperwork.
But what happened at Mid Staffs wasn’t just about what happened on the wards. The pursuit of foundation trust status made the trust’s board and senior management obsessed with targets, so much so that they neglected what should have been their unequivocal priority – patient care.
To the families, those people who change their loved ones’ bed sheets matter more than the people looking over the spreadsheets. Those people whose hands are entrusted to steer the NHS must create a culture where patient care is the top priority, no ifs, no buts.
This is the core “business” of the NHS, and anything else is a distraction.