Jeremy Hunt MP: A narrow focus on finance and targets was a large driver of the Mid Staffs tragedy
Jeremy Hunt is the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey and Secretary of State for Health. Follow Jeremy on Twitter.
Robert Francis QC’s report into the appalling failures of care at Mid Staffordshire Hospital must mark a turning point for our NHS. It lays bare the dreadful neglect and mistreatment suffered by hundreds of patients between 2005 and 2009. It is truly shocking to read just how comprehensive the failures were right across the system – from ward to Whitehall. Hospital staff, managers, regulators and politicians all failed. It took the courage and determination of the families who had suffered so terribly to get the truth out.
I will need to study carefully all 290 recommendations before outlining our full response but as the Prime Minister said in his statement yesterday, the report makes some fundamental points about the culture of the NHS which apply well beyond one hospital. This needs to be a ‘never again’ moment for the whole health service.
It is clear from the report that a large driver for the awful events at Mid Staffs was the Board’s pursuit of Foundation Trust status under the last Labour Government, which led to a narrow focus on finance and targets at the expense of patients. It cannot be right for a Board to be more concerned with targets and finances than giving the most basic dignity and respect to patients. So we will create a single failure regime where the suspension of the Board can be triggered by failures in care as much as by failures in finance.
Most of all we must put compassion back at the heart of nursing so we recruit people with the right values and not just the right academic qualifications.
We will underpin this with a new, rigorous inspection regime overseen by a Chief Inspector of Hospitals. This will be based not just on metrics, which can easily be gamed, but by an expert judgement as to whether or not a hospital is really up to scratch when it comes to patient care. We need a system that is transparent where there is failure - but also good at recognising success. When Ofsted started recognising outstanding schools the new breed of superheads was born. We need the same in the NHS because these are the people who will help us turn around failure when it happens.
At its finest the NHS embodies the best of this country, so it is right that we have the highest expectations of all those who work in it. Most of the time that is exactly what they do and we should never allow the events at Mid Staffs to overshadow the selfless care and compassion you can see from doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants every day in wards throughout the country. But the worst betrayal of them would be not to act on this report - and doing so will be my single most important priority as Health Secretary.