The head of the NHS Confederation is warning that sticking plasters on ‘creaking parts of the NHS’ will soon fail, and only NHS leaders must “take up the gauntlet” and respond to the increasing pressures and challenges that lay ahead.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation - which represents NHS managers - makes his comments ahead of the organisation’s annual conference in Liverpool later this week.

It also comes as the NHS Confederation is today publishing the findings of a major survey of NHS senior leaders.

Its findings show recognition from NHS chief executives and chairs of the need to change the culture of the health service to rebuild public confidence in the NHS in the wake of the Francis report, and highlight concerns about the impact of financial pressures.

The Francis report, published in February, was the fifth major investigation into the failings at the Staffordshire hospital, where as many as 1,200 extra deaths were recorded between 2005 and 2008 due to negligence.

Robert Francis QC, the report’s author, said that a poor NHS culture was to blame for the deaths, and an overly rigid focus on box-ticking was put ahead of compassion for patients.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Farrar said: “NHS leaders clearly get the message that there needs to be real and lasting changes to improve the way we provide care and the way we involve patients and the public in all aspects of their care.

“The poor care highlighted by the Francis Inquiry was a wake-up call to us all - we have to raise our game and commit ourselves to changing the culture of the NHS, being more open and transparent, genuinely listening to patients and their families when they raise concerns, and taking action to remedy our ills.

“These results also show that there is serious concern about the underlying challenges facing the NHS and the pressures building on services.”

Financial demands

The survey also paints “some very worrying pictures” on the financial pressures on the NHS, Farrar added.

“The NHS and its staff face yet another year of pressure - demands on resources are growing and finances are tightening. Although our members tell us they are confident about meeting their savings challenges over the next year, a substantial majority describe the financial pressures on their organisations as serious, with one in five telling us they are the worst they have ever experienced. And they expect the temperature to continue to rise over the next year.”

Headline figures from the survey of NHS chief executives and chairs show that:

•    A substantial majority (61 per cent) of NHS leaders believe a culture change in the NHS is vital if the quality of care for patients is to improve.

•    40 per cent of NHS leaders believe that quality of care will improve over the next 12 months.

•    A large majority of respondents (74 per cent) are confident that they will meet their savings targets over the next 12 months .

•    93 per cent of respondents said that only 'slight progress' or 'no progress' is being made to integrate care. 61 per cent of respondents said this lack of integration will lead to services becoming unsustainable.

•    Financial pressures facing organisations are serious for the substantial majority of respondents (62 per cent), with over one in five NHS leaders describing the pressures facing their organisation as the worst they have ever experienced.

•    83 per cent of respondents believe that financial pressures on their organisations will increase over the next 12 months.