Nurses continue to work under poor conditions, such as those found at Mid Staffordshire, because of a “Dunkirk” spirit that results in them being taken advantage of, a leading expert on healthcare regulation has warned.
Sir Ian Kennedy, former chair of the Healthcare Commission, gave evidence last week to the Mid Staffordshire public inquiry.
Asked why he thought clinical and medical staff had not refused to continue working under the conditions in Mid Staffs, Sir Ian said there was “something of a Dunkirk spirit” within the NHS of delivering despite difficult circumstances. He said this was especially true among nurses.
He said this was “taken advantage of by others who know that nurses in particular, and some doctors, become guerrilla fighters against a system which doesn’t provide what they need.”
Sir Ian also blamed bullying when asked why he thought more staff at Mid Staffs had not made use of the trust’s whistle blowing policy.
He suggested this was a wider problem in the NHS that needed to be addressed to improve care standards. He told the inquiry: “[Bullying] is, in my view, particularly among nurses, one of the problems that needs to be rooted out.”
Meanwhile, a senior nurse criticised the Care Quality Commission – which replaced the Healthcare Commission in 2009 – for moving away from detailed inspections in her evidence to the public inquiry last week.
Shelagh Hawkins worked as an assessor for the Healthcare Commission’s West Midlands team. She was transferred to the CQC as a member of the hygiene team but was made redundant in November 2010 when that team was scrapped.
However she told the inquiry she had also previously applied for another CQC role but was told her “approach was too investigative”.
Giving evidence last Wednesday she said: “There’s… no investigative team now, and there’s no national hygiene team either. They don’t want that level of investigation, I believe, at the moment.”
She admitted however that, although she had had concerns around clinical governance at Mid Staffordshire, she had not been aware of the extent of the problems with standards of during her time at the Healthcare Commission. She said the trust had not stood out from others in the region.