hospital 180The government has published a new report setting out the steps that they have taken since Robert Francis’ first inquiry into the poor care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

As part of the response, Culture Change in the NHS, the government has pledged that people seeking NHS employment will be protected from being discriminated against because they are known to be whistleblowers, under legislation to be introduced within weeks.

Jeremy Hunt vowed to change the law by the end of this parliament after an independent review commissioned by the health secretary detailed shocking treatment of whistleblowers, with some victimised to the extent that their careers were left in tatters and their families torn apart, and causing some people to have suicidal thoughts or even attempt to end their lives.

The report has received a wide-ranging response from health care leaders. Dr Jennifer Dixon, the Health Foundation’s Chief Executive, said: “We welcome the government’s focus on patient safety, but further steps are still needed.

“It’s time to take stock of the current policies in the NHS to help monitor, assure and improve quality and safety. There is a bewildering array of them and we need to understand which ones to prioritise and where there are gaps.

“There needs to be an assessment of the support available to people working at the frontline to help them improve the quality of care for patients. We recently carried out a survey of 99 hospitals in England, which highlighted an appetite for greater practical and moral support from external bodies.

“It will be essential to monitor the progress of the policies outlined today, in particular any unintended consequences. For example, it will be important to understand if policies such as the new duty of candour and offence around supplying false or misleading information will achieve the desired change in culture.”

Continued focus on transparency
QC Francis led two inquiries into failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust, said raising concerns should be part of everyday working life.

Commenting on the response to those inquiries Rob Webster, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "The safety of every patient in our care and the value of every penny we spend are paramount in the NHS. The continued focus on transparency and improving quality of care is welcome in achieving these aims. The responsibility for improving quality of care lies firstly with NHS organisations, their staff and boards. We need to recognise the progress they have made on this agenda.

“We know there is much more to be done if we are to achieve our ultimate aim. We look forward to working with the government, regulators and other health bodies as well as our members. Greater transparency is essential to improving care for patients. The information we provide to patients needs to be meaningful and help them make decisions about their care. Equally we need to ensure that measures to improve transparency provides a fair representation of the quality of care provided by our members and a proportionate response based on improvement and excellence.

“On the regulation of managers, we welcome the understanding reflected in this report that relying on punitive legislation is at odds with the development of positive, enabling cultures where trust and confidence motivate people to do the right thing - not a fear of legal proceedings. We are working with our members to ensure the fit and proper person requirement is effective and supports value based leadership in the NHS.”