Union leaders have warned the Government not to use the Francis Report into events at Mid Staffordshire as a “stick to further beat” the NHS.
They fear ministers may attempt to focus blame on the frontline rather than systemic and cultural problems in the health service, which were the focus of Robert Francis QC’s public inquiry.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has already talked of “pockets” of poor care similar to incidents at Stafford Hospital existing across the NHS during a speech in December.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea told Nursing Times: “We would not want to see what happened at Mid Staffordshire being used as another stick to the beat the whole of the NHS, and soften up the public to the idea of the private sector being more involved.
“We have seen the biggest restructure the NHS has ever seen, tight financial pressures and staff numbers being cut. All of that is outside of the control of the frontline worker.”
She said that, while no one would dispute the events at Mid Staffs, the government has to take its “fair share of the responsibility”. “We need to support staff to make sure they can deliver good quality, compassionate and dignified care,” she said.
Rachael Maskell, head of health at the union Unite, claimed the government’s current handling of the NHS risked creating more “Mid Staffs”.
She said: “We have seen the government’s response building and the stories coming through about the lack of care, but that is a defence mechanism that is being put up. It doesn’t go to the systemic problems of what happened.”
In a speech last week, Mr Hunt said many of the care failures at Mid Staffs would not have happened if patients had been listened to.
He told delegates at a National Voices conference in London that, while he could not say too much about it before the report was published, the government’s response “will be how we put patient voice at the heart” of the NHS.
Mr Hunt called for a culture of “zero harm”, a concept argued for by the patient group Cure the NHS in its evidence to the inquiry.
He also used the speech to pay “particular tribute to the doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants who are working harder than they ever have before”.
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