Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Health secretary uses conference speech to call for 'honesty culture'


Jeremy Hunt has said he wants to eliminate “unsafe care” in the NHS, which needlessly costs lives and money.

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference this afternoon, the health secretary flagged up the 200 avoidable deaths that happen in hospitals across the country every week.

“That’s like a plane crash a week because of mistakes we shouldn’t be making,” he told the conference.

Part of the reason was the culture in hospitals prevented nurses and doctors from speaking out about poor care, he added.

“Too many worry that if they own up to making a mistake or blow the whistle on poor care they will be fired – as they sometimes are,” he said.

“As a result, not only do we cause patients and families untold anguish as they search for the truth, we lose the chance to learn from those mistakes,” said Mr Hunt.

“In our hospitals we need an honesty culture not a blame culture”

Jeremy Hunt

He called for an “honesty culture” in hospitals instead of a “blame culture”.

From May next year, avoidable death rates for each hospital will be published on the MyNHS website alongside other performance data, including the quality of mental health care, he told delegates.

Mr Hunt said this was not about “naming and shaming”, as there were no sanctions or punishments for those with low scores “just the opportunity to improve”.

Meanwhile, he challenged people who said there was not enough money to deliver the best care and called on the NHS to “eliminate the waste from unsafe care”.

“It isn’t a choice between standards or money,” he said. “If someone catches MRSA in hospital, they stay in hospital for longer, costing the NHS more money. Safer care costs less, not more.”

Mr Hunt said he believed the effort to learn lessons from poor care and improve it “has never been higher”.

In addition, he defended the decision to get tough on hospitals who failed to meet standards by putting them into special measures.

“People said no one would want to work at those hospitals. That they would sink into a spiral of decline. That things would go from bad to worse,” he said.

“Instead, those trusts have changed their boards, recruited hundreds of doctors and nurses, and transformed the care they give,” he said.

“Those trusts [put in special measures] have changed their boards, recruited hundreds of doctors and nurses, and transformed the care they give”

Jeremy Hunt

Out of the 24 major hospitals put into special measures in the two years since the Francis report into failing at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, he noted that nine had already come out.

Mr Hunt urged the conference to “recognise the brilliant work of the doctors and nurses” at those organisations “who have worked so hard to turn their trusts around”.

He also defended the government’s plans for a seven-day health service and denied claims that doctors and nurses could be made to work longer hours for less money.

“We want to support the many doctors who do work weekends with properly staffed shifts, safe working hours and seven-day diagnostic services so that patients are not put at risk,” he added.

“So I say to those people working very hard right now on the frontline, stand beside as we address this,” he said.

However, the speech (see PDF attached, top-right) did not contain any major new policy announcements, and there was no direct mention of the current staff shortages or budget deficits facing trusts and the wider NHS.


Rippon urges awareness of dementia needs

The health section of the conference also included a speech by former BBC newsreader Angela Rippon, who is a supporter of the Alzheimer’s Society.

She told delegates about the charity’s “dementia friends” awareness initiative and highlighted work done by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Most notably the conference watched part of the trust’s powerful video “Barbara’s story” – a fictional account of the experiences of a patient with dementia.

Alzheimer's Society

Angela Rippon


Readers' comments (10)


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • foo cough hunt

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt does not practice what he preaches, but appears to be unembarrassed to espouse standards of conduct that he has failed to live up to.

    Report after report has been delayed and suppressed to varying degrees on his watch…
    Lord Rose’s report on the quality of management in the NHS, the report of the Freedom to Speak Up Review on NHS whistleblowing and the NHS Trust Development Authority’s (TDA) commissioned report into allegations of whistleblower suppression and manipulation of data at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, to name recent examples.

    In the last few days senior staff at Monitor and NHS TDA were reportedly “leaned on” by government ministers to delay publication of routine reports that would have revealed the real extent of the serious financial crisis in the NHS, because such publicity was unwanted before the Tory party conference.

    From the point of view of whistleblowers, Mr Hunt has done nothing to make it safer to speak up. The Freedom to Speak Up review has simply confirmed what was already known – that NHS whistleblowers have been brutally suppressed – but it failed to deliver effective protection for future whistleblowers.

    Mr Hunt’s most crucial arms length body, CQC, limps on as an organ of government rather than a truly independent champion of the public’s interests. Mirroring its master, CQC continues in old ways of spin, smoke and mirrors. It has still not published meaningful activity data on its handling of whistleblowing.

    CQC has also resisted transparency about a very delayed external review of its performance as a “prescribed body” under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, and its duty to receive and respond appropriately to disclosures from whistleblowers.

    All in all it seems that what’s good for the goose (aka NHS minions) is not good for Jeremy the Rt Hon gander.

    Minh Alexander former consultant psychiatrist and NHS whistleblower

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • An honesty culture ABOUT the NHS would be a fitting companion piece to this, and there would be no better place to start than Jeremy Hunt speaking about the avalanche of financial problems he has tried to avoid becoming a topic at his party conference. How about it, Jeremy?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How about an honesty culture amongst the politicians? We don't mind you sharing our Code. Transform Westminster.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It's interesting that Mr Hunt uses the analogy of a 'plane crash' if the NHS adopted the openness (or honesty!!) of examination that follows both 'plane crashes and 'near misses in the aviation industry it would be no bad thing.
    This isn't new Mr Hunt...I am sure lots of us are aware of the sad and unnecessary death of Elaine Bromiley and the 'Human Factors' movement that came from that... as her husband was a commercial airline pilot...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thank you Minh for doing what you could and bless you.

    Quite so, Sigourney. The spin politicians don't like Jeremy Corbyn do they? He seems to have principles and tell the truth as he sees it at the time. That would shake them up if ever he became prime minister!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • fine we look to Hunt, the government and NHS management to set the example. on the whole professional staff are already honest!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • perhaps he would like to come to us healthcare professionals for some lessons!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ANONYMOUS6 OCTOBER, 2015 5:46 PM


    Just what the Govt ordered !

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs