The Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry
In 2008 the Healthcare Commission (the old NHS regulator) published the findings of an investigation into failings in care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Focusing on problems at Stafford Hospital, the investigation found widespread failings in care. A local campaign group Cure the NHS, led by Julie Bailey whose mother died at the hospital, campaigned for an inquiry. The Patients Association supported them in this campaign and the previous Government ordered two Department of Health investigations and then a secret inquiry led by Robert Francis QC that lacked legal powers and focused on problems at the hospital, not wider failings.
The new coalition Government ordered a full legal inquiry under Robert Francis QC who was recognised to have led the first inquiry with sensitivity and care. This Inquiry was charged with looking into failings by the various bodies and regulators that are supposed to prevent problems in care persisting.
One of the most worrying things about the scandal was that the Trust had managed to achieve coveted ‘foundation status’ whilst the problems were ongoing. This process required the support of the local Department of Health (known as Strategic Health Authorities), the NHS financial regulator Monitor and the Department of Health directly, including a Government minister.
Along with Cure the NHS, the Patients Association was granted core participant status which allows us to make submissions and put forward questions for witnesses with the support of a legal team. We provided an opening submission and gave oral evidence which can be accessed at the bottom of this inquiry webpage:
Throughout the inquiry we have submitted suggested questions for the witnesses, constantly seeking to highlight areas we feel were important to explore.
The inquiry was originally expected to finish hearing from witnesses in the summer 2010 but early on the Chairman indicated he expected it to take much longer. There was an extraordinary development in 2010 when it was revealed that the Department of Health had not been preparing documents for the inquiry for a period of six months. This led to a delay in calling the witnesses for the Department of Health, many of whom will be key to the inquiry finding answers to important questions.
Nevertheless, the Inquiry broke for the summer in July and resumed in Autumn to hear from the remaining witnesses.
In the final two weeks of the inquiry all of the core participants summarised the evidence they had given, their explanations for their actions and their recommendations for improvement. The Patients Association submitted a 122 page document considering a number of issues including:
- How the Department of Health, regulatory bodies and wider NHS community did and still do fail to truly understand the strengths and weaknesses in the performance of different hospitals and individual clinicians
- The extent to which we continue to be very concerned about very poor standards of care being given to some patients, particularly older hospital inpatients with significant nursing care needs
- Whether the current mantra of a focus on quality and not just wating times and finance is actually reflected in reality
In total we made over 40 recommendations for improvement considering patient surveys, hospital regulation, complaints handling, Foundation Trust authorisation, finances, performance management, revalidation and publication of outcomes and other information.
Our full submission can be read here.
All the evidence given by the witnesses will now be reviewed by the Chairman. He will consider ours and others recommendations when deciding which ones he would like to make.The report of the Inquiry was expected to be released in April 2012 however, the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley will not now receive the Francis Report until October 2012 at the earliest.