HEALTH secretary Jeremy Hunt today announced a raft of radical measures putting patients first in response to the Francis Report into the disaster at Stafford Hospital.
Mr Hunt said a ‘culture of compassion’ would be a key marker of success, putting quality of care at the heart of the NHS in an overhaul of the system aiming to end the target-driven culture and box ticking which led to the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
“The events at Stafford Hospital were a betrayal of the worst kind,” he said. “A betrayal of the patients, of the families, and of the vast majority of NHS staff who do everything in their power to give their patients the high quality, compassionate care they deserve.”
“We cannot merely tinker around the edges – we need a radical overhaul with high quality care and compassion at its heart.”
He said today’s announcement was just an initial response to Robert Francis’ recommendations and would herald the start of a fundamental change to the system.
“I can pledge that every patient will be treated in a hospital judged on the quality of its care and the experience of its patients.
“They will be cared for in a place with a culture of zero harm, by highly trained staff with the right values and skills,” he said. “And if something should go wrong, then those mistakes will be admitted, the patient told about them and steps taken to rectify them with proper accountability.”
Mr Hunt said chairs of key organisations involved in care had pledged to implement the changes to make the NHS the best and safest health and care system in the world.
The radical measures announced included Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes, a statutory duty of candour for organisations which provide care and are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and a pilot programme where nurses work for up to a year as a healthcare assistant as a pre-requisite to receive funding for their degree.
Mr Hunt said a culture of zero-harm and compassionate care would be put in place alongside a new regulatory model under an independent chief inspector of hospitals who would introduce a ratings system for hospitals and individual departments and assess the hospital complaints procedures.
The plans will see a chief inspector of social care taking on a similar role across the health and social care sector and Mr Hunt said the ‘merits’ of having a chief inspector of primary care were being explored.
The CQC will be repositioned to take on a more specialised role based on ‘rigorous and challenging peer review’ with assessments including judgements on hospitals’ overall performance including whether patients are listened to and treated with dignity and respect, the safety of services, responsiveness, clinical standards and governance.
The new plans will aim to detect problems quickly with a statutory duty of candour ensuring CQC registered organisations were open and transparent and survival rates published in disciplines including cardiology, vascular and orthopaedic surgery.
A new set of standards laying out what the public have a right to expect from the NHS will be produced by the chief inspector of hospitals, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and patient groups with a new ‘failure regime’ ensuring action is taken swiftly when those terms are breached and punitive measures in place if they are not.
Health professionals will be held accountable for their wrongdoing with possible legal sanctions at corporate level for providers who knowingly mislead or withhold information from the public and the chief inspector ensuring unsuitable staff are barred from working in hospitals.
NHS-funded student nurses will spend a year as healthcare assistants or not receive funding ensuring they become workers with the right values and understand their jobs.
They will also be skills-tested regularly to ensure they remain fit for the job.
Healthcare support workers and adult social care workers will be expected to meet minimum training standards and adhere to a new code of conduct.
Civil servants working at the department of health will all be expected to complete a period of time working on the frontlines of the NHS to better understand the job.