STAFFORDSHIRE’S council chief has said every organisation involved with Stafford Hospital during the time of its failings must bear some responsibility for what went wrong.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the Francis Inquiry’s report Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins called on the public to help shape the future of care in the county.
“The events which occurred at Stafford Hospital are without a doubt one of the worst times not only for the NHS, but for Staffordshire itself,” he said. “There isn’t a single organisation involved with the trust at that time which doesn’t bear some responsibility.
“Although not directly responsible for the way patients were treated the county council could have done more at the time to challenge the information that was presented and I am saddened it didn’t.”
Councillor Atkins said it was vital the voice of residents was heard in the future and that voice was at the heart of delivering an invigorated NHS if lessons were truly to be learnt from the events which unfolded at Stafford Hospital.
“If as a country we are really serious about transforming the NHS, then the voice of the public needs to be the driver for change and sadly, we need look no further than Stafford Hospital to see why this must happen.
He said the county council was committed to doing everything in its power to deliver a first class health service and ensure history was not repeated.
“As a county council, we have a smaller, but still important role to both scrutinise and challenge and we have already made bold decisive changes to ensure Staffordshire residents not only have a voice but that it is as loud and as powerful as it can be.
He said part of those measures was the setting up of independent patient champion Engaging Communities Staffordshire which he said would be bolstered in the Spring by the launch of Healthwatch – a public-led organisation tasked with helping to shape future services in the county.
“We have also made scrutiny procedures of NHS partners tougher, with the public able to attend meetings and ask questions directly of senior NHS officials.”
He said the county council had designed induction sessions for future councillors in order that they might better understand their roles and responsibilities regarding scrutiny, suggesting proper training was necessary if lay people were to scrutinise professional services.
“We have to find the right people to ask the questions,” he said. “There’s a real skill about challenging people.”
Councillor Atkins said he wanted to reassure residents in Stafford and the surrounding areas that real progress has and continued to be made at the trust and in the care it delivered to the people of the area.
“I am pleased to say that we now have a very different, improving story to tell in Staffordshire.
“This should never happen again and I know that never is a strong word, but we have got to start looking to the future,” he said. “There’s a dedicated team of staff at that hospital that have been working very hard and we have got to help them through this.