Culture change in the NHS should happen immediately, the chair of the public inquiry into the “disaster” at Stafford Hospital said.Robert Francis QC said that healthcare workers should not wait for Government recommendations to implement a change of attitudes towards care in the health service.
Mr Francis’s report into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust highlighted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” between 2005 and 2009.
He made a total of 290 sweeping recommendations for healthcare regulators, providers and the Government.
In his first public appearance since publishing the report, Mr Francis told healthcare professionals at The King’s Fund: “We are of course waiting for the Government’s response to the recommendations.
“But why are we waiting? There is much in this report that doesn’t require a change of law, it doesn’t require a policy guidance from the Care Quality Commission.
“It doesn’t require anything other than a change of attitude on the part of people. Everyone in this room who has a job in the health service can walk out and actually start doing something that makes a difference.”
Mr Francis said the “first and foremost” thing that healthcare workers could do was to listen to those who have complaints because “there is almost always something you can do about it”.
He also reiterated some of his recommendations, including his call for a registration database for healthcare support workers, saying: “Isn’t it odd that the security guard at the door of the hospital, the driver of the minicab who takes you there, have more regulation attached to them and more sanction available to their supervision than does the support worker who is cleaning the bottom of your grandmother?
“We have to have a system where those who are unfit for the job are excluded from doing so.”
He said that patients should be put first in a set of values which each healthcare worker should commit to.
He also said there should be “no tolerance” for breaches of fundamental standards in care.
Quoting Florence Nightingale, who said it was a strange principle to have to say that the very first requirement of a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm, Mr Francis said: “Also in 1860 there she was saying ‘what can’t be cured must be endured is the very worst and most dangerous maxim for a nurse’.
“Unfortunately we have now found that it was a maxim that was prevalent in the National Health Service at numerous levels even today.”