NHS trust’s emergency care ‘appalling’, say reports

Poorly handled reorganisations, a failure to take patient complaints seriously, a “closed culture” and a “hugely disappointing” failure to blow the whistle lay behind “appalling” standards of emergency care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, two reports said last week. Health Direct will this week examine the fallout from the preventable deaths.

Even now, problems with staffing and equipment persist at the hospital where the Healthcare Commission said last month that emergency patients died because of chaotic care, the reports said.

The findings came as Alan Johnson, the health secretary, said that primary care trusts will have to publish an annual statement showing how they involve patients in decision making.

Hospitals will have to publish the number of complaints that they receive and how many they successfully resolve.

Health authorities will have to seek explicit assurance from the new NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission, that the quality of care is acceptable before trusts are put forward to become NHS foundation trusts.

In the case of the Stafford hospital, Monitor, the foundation trust regulator, was unaware of mounting concerns at the Healthcare Commission about the quality of care at the time that it was approved for flagship foundation trust status.

In addition, Mr Johnson announced that a question that has been dropped from the annual staff survey – whether staff are happy with the standard of care their organisation provides – is to be reinstated.

Low scores at Mid-Staffs, where just 27 per cent of staff said they were happy with the care provided, was one factor that alerted the Healthcare Commission to problems there and the decision to drop the question has been fiercely criticised.

Extra nurses were being drafted in to the hospital as Mr Johnson said that while there have been “significant improvements” at Stafford, it was “clear there is more to do”.

He also reminded staff that they have a duty to blow the whistle about poor quality care and are protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

Andrew Lansley, the Conservative health spokesman, said the reports by the health department’s accident and emergency and primary care tsars “are neither open nor independent enough” and neither, he said, “gets to the heart of why staff did not feel they could speak out”.

The Patients Association said it was considering applying for a judicial review of the decision not to hold a formal independent inquiry into what happened at the hospital.

The studies showed that as the local strategic health authority and primary care trust were reorganised in 2006, key information was not transferred and there was “a loss of organisational memory”.


Health Direct is pleased with Alan Johnson’s U turn on asking the “difficult questions” about hospital standards.

However, it was only a month ago that his department dropped the common sense requirement:
Labour stops asking the uncomfortable question- is your hospital OK?

Tue, 14 Apr, 2009- National Health Service staff are no longer being asked whether they would be happy to be treated in their own hospitals, because the answers don’t match labour’s spin.

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