Last week, the House of Commons considered the vital matter of the Francis Report – one year on. It is quite difficult at this stage in the tragedy of Stafford hospital to recall how it all came about and the difficulties that those of us who experienced it had to endure, the patients and the victims in particular.
There was complete and total resistance, a granite-like refusal, to having a proper look at what was going on. A tooth and nail battle had to be fought to get the Inquiry in the first place, under the Inquiries Act 2005. I was absolutely astonished that successive Secretaries of State completely refused, point-blank, to have such an inquiry in the case of Mid Staffordshire. And I repeatedly called for the resignation of Sir David Nicholson because the whole target-based policy was very much tied up with his approach to these matters.
The work of Cure the NHS included that of my constituent Deborah Hazeldine, who came to me in my office in December 2008, with Julie Bailey, and explained that they were getting nowhere with the complaints and concerns that they were expressing. They asked what could be done about it, and I explained to them that if they did certain things, I thought we would be able to get a campaign moving of the kind that would be needed to get a 2005 Act inquiry. I pay tribute to them, and to Ken Lownds – a man of enormous integrity, knowledge, skill and commitment – who has been a tower of strength.
A great deal of credit is due to Jeremy Hunt as the current Secretary of State and the MP for Stafford, Jeremy Lefroy. Of course, I was extremely glad that, when the Conservative Party was in opposition, I was able to overcome some resistance to a 2005 Act inquiry: the current Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, listened to the arguments that I and others made and agreed to have a full 2005 Act inquiry, because he understood how important it was. The consequence has been to enable us to make changes throughout the entire health service that have enabled us in Staffordshire to be a pathfinder for solving some of the problems presented in the NHS. A zero-harm healthcare policy is important.
It is right that the Mid Staffs Foundation Trust is being dissolved, and that the Prime Minister, at a recent Prime Minister’s questions, backed plans, in as many words, for consultant-led maternity to continue at Stafford hospital. That service, plus paediatric services, critical care and a 24-hour emergency service, is necessary for my constituents in Stone and for the rest of Staffordshire.
William Cash is the Conservative MP for Stone.