Sir Bruce Keogh will lead an investigation into hospitals that continue to miss acceptable performance goals, as one means of preventing the appalling failures seen at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust from happening again.
Full details of the investigation are yet to be released, but the first five hospitals - all of which have had poor results on a key mortality indicator for two years - to come under the microscope have been revealed.
These are: Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust (FT); Tameside Hospital NHS FT; Blackpool Teaching Hospitals FT; Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS FT; and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.
"Each of the hospitals we identify today is already under scrutiny by regulators," commented Keogh, who is NHS Medical Director at the Department of Health and Medical Director of the NHS Commissioning Board. "This clinically-led and practical investigation will allow me to assure myself, Parliament and patients that these hospitals have everything they need to improve, he explained.
The announcement came via a Prime Ministerial statement yesterday in response to the Francis Inquiry, which was prompted after data showed between 400 and 1,200 more deaths than would normally have been expected at the hospital occurred between 2005 and 2008.
In his damning report, Francis made no less that 290 recommendations to prevent similar circumstances in future, including merging the regulation of care into one body from two; criminalising the hiding of information about poor care; and a statutory obligation on doctors and nurses for a duty of candour so they are open with patients about mistakes.
In a statement, the NHSCB said that action on many of the concerns identified by the Francis report is already underway or planned, including an assessment of zero tolerance on patient harm and the development of a national quality dashboard to identify safety failures as as early as possible.
"There is much more to do but we hope people can see that the journey has begun," the Board said.
Elsewhere, Monitor said it would work more closely with the Care Quality Commission to improve patients safety.
"We accept without hesitation our share of responsibility for failures in regulation during the period in question. We authorised a trust which in retrospect should not have been authorised and could have used our formal intervention powers sooner once problems had been uncovered," it said
Going forward, Monitor said it would no longer authorise an NHS Trust without the CQC’s assurance that it has no major concerns about the quality of care, and to work much more closely Commission, "sharing information about concerns in foundation trusts and applicant trusts, and jointly commissioning further investigations where necessary".