LOCAL councils must take their share of the blame for the failings at Stafford Hospital, Stafford Borough Council’s leader has said.
Councillor Mike Heenan apologised for the borough council health scrutiny committee not being “more thorough” in its monitoring of the hospital.
He also said he was “particularly sorry” that Cure the NHS campaigner Julie Bailey did not receive the support she expected after she wrote to the committee with her concerns.
But he added that the committee had been misled about the true situation by hospital management, and had no remit to investigate individual complaints.
Councillor Heenan said: “I welcome the Robert Francis report. My hope now is that all the recommendations will be implemented to ensure a tragedy such as this can never, and will never, happen again at any UK hospital.
“It’s clear from the report that many agencies must take a share of the blame for what happened at Stafford Hospital – including local councils through their health scrutiny role.
“When the concerns about the hospital were first brought to our attention the council decided to bring the running of the hospital before the Health Scrutiny Committee (HSC) at every meeting – concentrating on hospital infections and mortality rates. They did this as a public body, in the public interests and with the best intentions of the community at heart.
“But once the HSC had taken on this role, our residents, and those from all the other districts in Staffordshire that use the hospital, are entitled to expect them to be more thorough in their scrutiny on behalf of the community and we are sorry we did not do so.
“It was said at the inquiry that there are clearly limits in what a committee of elected councillors can be expected to do in scrutiny of the hospital. We relied on professionals and organisations better equipped to tell us what was happening at the hospital.
“But like others it is now obvious the committee were misled about the true situation by the hospital management.
“We pointed out to the inquiry the weaknesses in scrutiny, such as having no authority to inspect hospitals and an inability to investigate complaints, and it is pleasing that they are addressed in the inquiry recommendations.
“We must now help to ensure the recommendations relating to local authority scrutiny are implemented in full.”