The head of the Royal College of Nursing has defended his decision to praise Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust after visiting the trust while it was being investigated over suspected care failings.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter last week gave evidence at the public inquiry into high profile care failings at the trust.
Although the Healthcare Commission was already investigating the trust, Mr Carter said he was not briefed in detail on the situation at Mid Staffs before his visit to the organisation on 23 May 2008.
Mr Carter said he was told by the trust: “Oh yeah, we’ve got the HCC in”, but said to the inquiry this was “not uncommon”.
He said he was not aware a serious investigation was going on at Mid Staffs, rather than a routine inspection. He said: “[There was] nothing that made me feel: ‘gosh there’s something cataclysmic going on here’.
“For the record, let’s be clear: I wish I knew then what I know now,” he said.
Mr Carter told the inquiry he could not remember which wards he visited, but they were not A&E or the emergency assessment unit. He said patients and relatives had been “fulsome with praise” for the hospital.
After the visit, he wrote to a local newspaper praising the standard of care at Mid Staffs – but did not specify that he was only referring to some wards. He said: “I wish I had been quite precise about where I visited.”
Mr Carter admitted he wrote to the press “very rarely” but denied he was prompted to do so by the trust. He said: “I have built my reputation on calling it as I see it. I certainly wouldn’t have been used as an instrument to do someone else’s bidding.”
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