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Clinical Negligence Solicitor Paul Sankey on lessons from the Mid-Staffordshire Inquiry

Now that it has been reported we wait to see what difference the Robert Francis QC’s Inquiry into poor NHS care at Mid Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust will make. The report is critical of an institutional culture which tolerated poor standards of care, focussing on the system’s business rather than patients’ needs.
Among the causes it identifies a chronic shortage of staff, low morale, a disturbing lack of compassion and the complacency of the governing Board which failed to investigate concerns.
Recommendations for change include greater accountability, preventing unregistered healthcare assistants giving personal care, ensuring each patient has a nurse designated to their care for each shift and who will be present at interactions with doctors and introducing a duty to be open and honest about mistakes.
The government’s initial response suggests that it has not understood. The idea that nursing pay should be related to the compassion they show patients misunderstands that at the heart of Robert Francis’ criticisms is poor management from above and staff shortages. Cuts to NHS funding mean front-line services will deteriorate and this will include nursing care. Further its suggestion that introducing a contractual terms that suppliers of NHS services must be candid about mistakes with the Trusts which commission their services does nothing for patients.
David Cameron’s suggestion that certain medical events – such as patients developing Pressure Sores – should not happen is welcome. But it will take more than aspirational statements to bring change. We wait therefore to see what difference the Inquiry will make. In the face of funding cuts and massive change to the health service it is hard to see patient care improving and less stories of Medical Negligence in our hospitals.