General view of Stafford Hospital.

Norfolk and Suffolk hospital chiefs pledge following damning NHS inquiry

Thursday, February 7, 2013
12.00 PM

Hospital bosses in Norfolk and Suffolk said delivering quality care was their top priority following the publication of a hard-hitting report into failings at a health trust in the Midlands.

Hundreds of patients endured “terrible and unnecessary” suffering in Mid Staffordshire because a hospital trust put corporate self interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety, a public inquiry found.

Officials at hospitals in Norfolk and Suffolk said much had changed within the NHS since “appalling” levels of care were discovered at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust-run Stafford Hospital between January 2005 and March 2009 when between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected.

A £11m public inquiry concluded yesterday with Robert Francis QC calling for the creation of a patient-centred culture across the NHS and for a “zero tolerance” approach to poor standards.

The report, which makes 290 recommendations to change the NHS, says hospitals which fail to comply with a “fundamental standard” should be forced to close. He also says healthcare providers should be liable for prosecution if they fail to comply with standards.

The inquiry chairman also called on every organisation within the NHS to report publicly on whether they have enacted his recommendations.

David Wright, chairman of the James Paget University Hospital, which was given a clean bill of health last year after receiving warnings from the Care Quality Commission, welcomed the findings of the Francis Report.

“Providing safe, high-quality care to patients is our priority. Over the last 18 months we have implemented significant measures to ensure the tragic events at Mid Staffs cannot happen at this hospital. Patient care is crucial and our low mortality rates, low emergency re-admission rates, and short length of stay, are all important indicators of high quality clinical care,” he said.

The government is set to respond to the findings of the public inquiry next month, but what went wrong at Mid Staffs could not be solved by sacking “scapegoats” or reorganising the NHS again, said Mr Francis.

The inquiry chairman said the NHS was full of dedicated, skilled people, but public trust may be lost unless all who work in the NHS take responsibility to root out poor practice.

Anna Dugdale, chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said the foundation trust had put in place a rigorous inspection regime in 2011 to ensure standards of care were kept and maintained.

“Our vision is ‘to provide every patient with the care we want for those we love the most’. This is our guiding principle and central to everything we do – in our quality standards, our expectations of our staff, the recruitment, training and development of our staff, and every interaction with our patients,” she said.

Officials at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn said the trust was taking the findings of the Francis Report “extremely seriously” and would be going through the 1,782-page report in detail to learn what recommendations it could apply.

Patricia Wright, chief executive, said the hospital had recruited additional doctors and nurses following the publication of the first Francis report in 2010.

“I would like to reassure local people that we are continually focused on providing high quality care. The hospital’s mortality rates have decreased over the last two years and are maintained within the normal range for a trust like the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We are proud that infection rates have decreased dramatically. I have recently appointed eight clinical directors to strengthen clinical leadership in the organisation. This will ensure our work going forward is clinically led and continues to put the quality and safety of patient care at the forefront of everything we do,” she said.

Stephen Graves, chief executive at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, said the trust ran a number of “back to the floor” events when trust board members spend half a day shadowing frontline staff.

He added that he, senior staff, a non-executive director and public representative complete a weekly walkabout to speak openly and honestly with staff.

“Although we do not always get it right, we work hard to promote an open and transparent culture where we listen to our staff and learn from the experiences of our patients,” he said.

See three pages of reaction to the Francis report in today’s EDP.