A doctor at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has admitted that medical staff there should have done more to address serious nursing shortages.
Consultants at Stafford Hospital had warned managers there were not enough nurses to accompany them on ward rounds and, as a result, were not receiving up-to-date feedback on their patients’ conditions, MPs heard last week.
As part of an inquiry into patient safety, the Commons health select committee held a special session on the lessons that could be learnt from the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Health minister Ben Bradshaw gave evidence as well as representatives from the trust and the RCN.
Peter Daggett, consultant physician and endocrinologist at the trust, told the committee that nurse staffing levels had become so low before the arrival of Healthcare Commission investigators in March 2008 that consultants were doing ward rounds without nurses.
Dr Daggett said: ‘I could not do ward rounds without having a nurse – but it had become the norm not to have a nurse. [Consultants] conducted ward rounds without a nurse being present.’
He added that with hindsight, doctors should not have accepted excuses from management that there was no funding for more nursing posts. ‘We should not have accepted their mantra that there [was] no money,’ he said.
MPs also heard evidence from RCN head of policy Howard Catton, who said that nurses’ reports of serious untoward incidents were ignored by middle management and did not come to the attention of the hospital board. ‘They went into a black hole or into a waste-paper basket,’ he said.
Mr Catton admitted that the poor quality of care experienced by many patients at the hospital was ‘unacceptable’. ‘Nurses have said with no hesitation that there is unacceptable care here, I don’t think we are trying to deny that,’ he said.
But he added that the hospital’s board should have done more to allow staff to make their concerns known. ‘Boards must give clear support,’ he added.
Mr Bradshaw hinted that the government was considering introducing powers to reverse foundation status, following the revelations about Mid Staffordshire.
Asked by MPs whether the government should be able to remove foundation status, Mr Bradshaw said: ‘That is something that certainly I think will be part of the deliberations – that are currently under way at the department at the highest level – to decide what legislation may be necessary to address some of the concerns that have arisen out of this case.’