NHS managers who are failing patients can expect to lose their jobs under new plans from health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Hunt said: “Just as a manager wouldn’t expect to keep their job if they lost control of their finances, nor should they expect to keep it if they lose control of the care in their organisation either.”
This comes as a Health Committee report on the accountability of the Care Quality Commission is set to be published this week. This was prompted by the now infamous failings at the Staffordshire hospital and the Mid Staffordshire Trust, which was regulated by the CQC.
In 2009 a Healthcare Commission report into the Staffordshire Hospital listed a catalogue of failings, including receptionists assessing patients arriving at A&E and a shortage of nurses and senior doctors.
Managers were found to have been distracted by targets and the need to cut costs, while regulators were accused of failing to pick up problems quickly enough, despite warnings from staff and patients.
It is estimated that around 1,200 patients died at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009 due to serious failings in care and neglect from staff - a report on these failings is expected in the coming months. Hunt said that the government will “listen carefully” to the Committee’s report, adding that ministers and regulators need to “speak out loudly” on similar issues in the future.
Hunt added: “Most of all we need a change of culture. Patients must never be treated as numbers but as human beings, indeed human beings at their frailest and most vulnerable.
“A culture of targets and performance management defined the NHS under Labour - with the unintended and tragic consequence that organisations cared more about meeting top down targets than focusing on the needs of patients.
“To reverse this we will this year, for the first time, ask every NHS hospital in-patient if they would recommend the care they received to a friend or a close member of their family - and publish the results.”
Also implicated in these failings was the CQC, as it was in charge of regulating the Trust. Kay Sheldon, a CQC board member, admitted last year that it needed to do a better job in the future. “The persistent failure to address, and at times acknowledge, the problems needs to be tackled if we are to achieve an effective and sustainable regulator that functions in the interest of patients and the public,” she said.
These problems led to its former chief executive, Cynthia Bower, to resign from her post in February last year, after pressure from the government. Criticism for Mid Staffs landed on Bower’s shoulders as she was head of West Midlands strategic health authority, the body responsible for the hospital during the scandal. The report on the CQC will be released on Wednesday and be covered by PharmaTimes UK News.