Doctors accused of keeping their heads down at Mid Staffs trust

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 06 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f840
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

Too many doctors kept their heads down when things went wrong at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, according to the prime minister, who has promised action to prevent the “horrific abuse” that took place there from happening again.

David Cameron made a statement in the House of Commons on 6 February, shortly after the Francis report was published, and expressed his anger at what transpired at the trust between 2005 and 2009.

He announced that he had asked the NHS’s main regulator, the Care Quality Commission, to create a new post of chief inspector of hospitals by the autumn.

The prime minister apologised to the families of patients who suffered “horrific abuse,” saying he was truly sorry for what happened at the Mid Staffordshire hospital.

“I have huge admiration for the doctors, nurses, and other health workers who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones, but we do them and the whole reputation of our NHS a grave disservice if we fail to speak out when things go wrong,” he said.

“What happened at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009 was not just wrong: it was truly dreadful. Hundreds of people suffered from the most appalling neglect and mistreatment.”

There had been a “most despicable catalogue of clinical and managerial failures” at the trust, he said.

Despite one of the report’s conclusions that the suffering patients experienced was primarily caused by failures of the trust board to listen to patients and staff, Cameron said that there were much wider failings by the primary care trust, the strategic health authority, regulators, the Royal College of Nursing, the Department of Health, and staff.

“Too many doctors kept their heads down instead of speaking out when things went wrong,” said Cameron. “However, the Francis report says we should not seek scapegoats.”

The prime minister said that the government would study all 290 recommendations made in the report and respond in detail next month.

In the meantime, however, some steps could be taken, and he announced that the government would create a single failure regime for trusts under which a trust board could be suspended for failures in care as well as for financial failures.

Cameron said that he favoured the approach that staff pay should be linked to the quality of care provided rather than to time served in a hospital.

The regulators were also heavily criticised by the prime minister, who said: “What happened within the Stafford Hospital should have led to those who were responsible being brought to book. This didn’t happen.

“I believe the regulatory bodies in particular are going to have some difficult questions to answer. The Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council need to explain why so far, no one has been struck off.

“The secretary of state for health has today invited them to explain what steps they will take to strengthen their systems of accountability in the light of this report.”

In addition, he had asked England’s medical director Professor Bruce Keogh to carry out an investigation of care at those hospitals with the highest mortality rates.

Shadow prime minister Ed Miliband backed the prime minister’s statement, saying: “The NHS represents the best values of this country and what happened at Stafford was an appalling betrayal of those values.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f840