So we have finally received the much-delayed Francis report – all 1,781 pages of it, and had a few days to digest its 290 recommendations. Some people have been disappointed that the report lacks bite, thanks to Mr Francis’ decision not to apportion blame. Others are disappointed that his recommendations lack punch. Personally I would have liked to see clear recommendations to protect individuals who do raise concerns about poor practice at their place of work. That would give us a better chance of nipping similar situations in the bud in future.
But perhaps that misses the point. What Mr Francis has achieved is to gather together an enormous and complex mass of evidence. He has also placed that evidence in a clear narrative that enables anyone with an interest in any aspect of this dreadful case to find the information they need quickly and easily.
And yes, he has made recommendations, but that is all they are – recommendations. He has no power to impose his will.
What happens to this report is now up to others. The government, the NHS and everyone who works in it, the professional regulators and the police can all choose to act on his findings and his recommendations or not. They can also choose to go further than Mr Francis recommends.
One of the many shocking aspects of the Mid Staffs tragedy brought into sharp focus by the report is just how much information was available about the dreadful situation at the time it was happening, and how many people ignored it or claimed not to have seen it. Well anyone claiming not to know now needs to be able to produce evidence that they have spent the past few years in the Amazon jungle.
Everyone with the power to effect the necessary changes has the evidence they need to do so. The government can accept his recommendations as they are or give them added bite. NHS workers can decide collectively that they will not allow this to happen again, and to ensure patients are at the heart of everything they do. The professional regulators can call individuals to disciplinary hearings. And the police and Crown Prosecution Service can pursue anyone shown to have acted in a way that makes them criminally liable.
I hope all these organisations and individuals have the will to ensure the report is used in a way that does justice to the families of those who suffered – who showed such bravery and tenacity in ensuring this story was heard, to the staff who did try to raise the alarm and suffered personally and professionally as a result, and to Mr Francis’ diligence and humanity in gathering his evidence. To leave it gathering dust would be an insult to them and a travesty for the people who suffered and died. Let’s use this important publication to transform the NHS into the service we know it can be and that its patients and staff deserve.