NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson should not be made a “scapegoat” for the misdeeds uncovered by last week’s Francis Report into failings at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, David Cameron said on Wednesday night.
Mr Cameron has come under intense pressure from some of the relatives of those who died in Stafford Hospital to sack Sir David, who had direct responsibility for the trust as head of its Regional Health Authority for part of the period when patients were neglected and mistreated.
But the prime minister said Sir David was doing a “very good job” as head of the NHS and had already acknowledged “mistakes” made by the RHA under his leadership and “properly” apologised for them.
“I think David Nicholson does a very good job,” said the PM. “I have worked with him at close quarters since becoming Prime Minister and I am impressed with the grip and grasp he has on the NHS and what he delivers in terms of results.
“I read the report very carefully. I looked at what people were responsible for and it seemed to me that he had properly apologised for and acknowledged the mistakes the Regional Health Authority made when he ran it for the short period of time as these events unfolded.”
Mr Cameron told reporters accompanying him on his visit to India: “I would remind you of what the report says, that we should not be seeking scapegoats. I think to highlight David Nicholson in that way would be seeking a scapegoat.
“Clearly there are lessons that health authorities and others have to learn from the crisis.
“He has apologised. He has said there are lessons to learn. He wants the NHS to learn them.
“I read that section of the report very carefully about the RHA and him and I read what was said about scapegoats and I don’t think he should be made a scapegoat for what went wrong in Mid-Staffordshire.”
Nine out of 10 health professionals want Sir David to resign as NHS chief executive, according to a web poll reported in the Daily Mail.
Health workers’ website NHSmanagers.net surveyed 1,723 doctors, nurses, managers and other senior NHS staff following the hospital scandal, and 92% said he should step down.