THE Government has now published its full response to the Francis report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
The response document promises "more openness, greater accountability and a relentless focus on safety".
The Department of Health in England has already instigated some changes following the Inquiry’s report published in February, most notably introducing a new hospital inspection regime and legislating for a duty of candour on NHS organisations. Today’s document sets out responses not only to the inquiry but also to five independent reports on safety, complaints, bureaucratic burdens, support workers and trusts with the worst mortality rates.
The Government has accepted 281 out of 290 recommendations, including 57 in principle and 20 in part. Progress against the report as a whole will now be reported to Parliament on an annual basis.
Among proposals for consultation is an "obligation" for all NHS organisations and professional staff to be open with patients when things go wrong. Failure to do so could result in a hospital having its indemnity cover for any resulting compensation claims reduced or removed. This would give a "strong financial incentive to hospitals to be open about patient safety incidents".
New changes in response to the independent recommendations also include a requirement from next April for all hospitals to publish mandatory monthly staffing levels on a ward-by-ward basis together with the percentage of shifts meeting safe staffing guidelines. Patients will be able to see these numbers on a new national safety website.
Trusts will also be required to report quarterly on complaints data and the Health Service Ombudsman will increase significantly the number of cases she considers. In addition, all hospitals will be required to set out clearly how patients and their families can raise concerns or complain, with independent support available from their Healthwatch or alternative organisations.
The Government will also legislate to make it a criminal offence to wilfully neglect patients so that "organisations and staff, whether managers or clinicians, responsible for the very worst failures in care are held accountable". There will also be a "fit and proper person's test" so managers who have failed in the past will be barred from taking up posts.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "I do not simply want to prevent another Mid Staffs. I want our NHS to be a beacon across the world not just for its equity, but its excellence. I want it to offer the safest, most compassionate and most effective care available anywhere - and I believe it can.
"Today’s measures are a blueprint for restoring trust in the NHS, reinforcing professional pride in NHS frontline staff and above all giving confidence to patients. I want every patient in every hospital to have confidence that they will be given the best and safest care and the way to do that is to be completely open and transparent."
Commenting on the Government response, Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said: "What happened at mid-Staffordshire Hospital was totally unacceptable and we support the Government’s commitment to put patient care first and foremost, while at the same time looking to create a culture of support - not blame - to empower staff to raise concerns and drive through change.
"We are also pleased that the Government has heeded the BMA’s warnings over the introduction of a statutory duty of candour for individuals, instead strengthening the professional duty that already exists. It is vital that organisations actively listen to their staff and take on their concerns."