Robert Francis QC, the chair of the public inquiry into the scandal at the Mid Staffordshire hospital trust, has welcomed the government’s response to his report, saying it “indicates its determination” to change the culture within the NHS.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a raft of changes to the NHS, including the naming and shaming of underperforming hospitals, a legal duty to be honest about mistakes in care, and a new rating system for hospitals.
Mr Francis’s high profile report highlighted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009, during which time as many as 1,200 patients may have died after they were “routinely neglected”.
In a letter circulated last night, he said: “Even though it is clear it does not accept all my recommendations, the government’s statement today indicates its determination to make positive changes to the culture of the NHS, in part by adopting some of my recommendations and in part through other initiatives.”
He added: “The overall effectiveness of the response will have to be judged on the detail developed over the next few months, and the decisions taken about recommendations on which no decision has been taken at this time.”
In response to the Francis report, Mr Hunt said a new chief inspector of hospitals will shine the spotlight on failing trusts, and announced plans to introduce a “national barring list” for managers who let their patients and the NHS down.
He also confirmed that hospitals would be subject to Ofsted-style ratings - where hospitals will be given a single rating such as “outstanding”, “good”, “requiring improvement” or “poor”.
The chief inspector of hospitals, who will be responsible for giving hospitals the ratings, will also act as “whistleblower-in-chief” and will be able to highlight care failings “without fear or favour from politicians”, the plans say.
He also said he wants to embed a culture of “zero harm and compassionate care” in the NHS and also proposed “statutory duty of candour” for NHS providers so that patients are fully informed if something has gone wrong with their care.
Mr Francis made a total of 290 sweeping recommendations for healthcare regulators, providers and the government, but it is unclear how many of the recommendations were taken on by ministers.
A number of Mr Hunt’s measures were criticised, especially the idea that people wanting to start student nursing courses should first undergo up to a year as a healthcare assistant and a lack of stronger policy on staffing levels.
The Royal College of Nursing said the response is “muddled and piecemeal” and should have introduced minimum staffing levels, while Labour’s shadow health Secretary Andy Burnham said the response “falls short” of what was promised following the publication of the inquiry report last month.
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