‘The quality of patient care will be put at the heart of the NHS in an overhaul of the health and care system in response to the Francis Inquiry.’ This is how the Department of Health opens its press release about Jeremy Hunt’s response to the Francis Inquiry, delivered in the Commons this afternoon. The government plans to create a ‘culture of compassion’. It will do this by introducing:
1). An ‘Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes’. The new chief inspector of hospitals will be the NHS’s ‘whistle-blower-in-chief’. He will also assess complaints procedures and ensure that recruitment is adequate. The chief inspector of care will ensure that the same standards are applied across the system. Those institutions which fail will be named and shamed.
2). A ‘statutory duty of candour for organisations which [will] provide care and are registered with the Care Quality Commission’. The commission will also enforce challenging peer review to ensure that hospitals and other institutions reach a required level of performance and attainment in care, dignity and respect.
3). A ‘pilot programme which will see nurses working for up to a year as a healthcare assistant as a prerequisite for receiving funding for their degree.’
You will have noticed that Hunt’s sticks will be wielded against institutions, not individuals. One of Robert Francis QC’s chief recommendations was that a legal duty of candour should apply to individuals. Hunt revealed that this recommendation is still under review because of concerns about the effects that it might have on transparency if staff became fearful of being prosecuted.
Hunt views transparency, coupled with the accountability mechanisms laid out above, as being central to restoring trust in the NHS. (Indeed, I’m told that a Policy Exchange event earlier this afternoon heard that the Mid Staffs crisis might have been averted had there been more effective digital transparency in the NHS; Hunt aims to make the NHS paperless by 2018.) This afternoon Hunt said that survival rates in 11 serious disciplines will be published; the aim being to expose incompetence and neglect, improve standards and generate confidence.
Elsewhere in his statement, Hunt said that he does not expect any manager involved in the Mid Staffs scandal, or any other incident like it, to be employed in the NHS again. This is, of course, no guarantee that such people won’t work in the NHS again. Later in the piece, Hunt resisted the suggestion, made by Bill Cash, that Sir David Nicholson, the NHS’s chief inspector, should resign over of his role in Mid Staffs.
You can read the rest of Hunt’s statement here.
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