New survey of NHS professionals finds a vast majority do not believe that quality of care in the health service is given enough priority.

This is according to a new survey published this week by The King’s Fund think-tank, which found almost three-quarters (73%) of NHS professionals believed more needed to be done on prioritising quality of care.

It also found that 40% thought that the quality of leadership in the NHS as a whole was poor or very poor, in contrast to 11% in their own service or team.

When asked what the biggest barrier to increasing quality of care was, 40% of NHS professionals said ‘time and/or resources’, though this figure was higher among nurses (51 per cent). ‘Organisational culture’ was next (identified by 28% of respondents), though it was identified as the most important factor by NHS executive directors (48 per cent).

The survey, part of The Kings’ Fund report on patient-centred leadership, was undertaken in the aftermath of the second Francis report, itself published in February.

The report’s author Francis QC looked into the failings at the Staffordshire Hospital, which saw as many as 1,200 more patients die during 2005 and 2008 than would have been expected.

Mr Francis found that negligent care and excessive box ticking – valued over the care of patients - were to blame for the extra deaths.

Changing NHS culture

The King’s Fund report concludes that “nothing less than a transformation of systems, leadership and culture” is needed throughout the NHS, if the lessons of the Francis Inquiry are to be learnt and acted on. Alignment of leadership in clinical teams, NHS boards and national organisations around the needs of patients and quality and safety of care is essential, it says.

Boards also need to demonstrate that they give sufficient priority to quality and patient safety, the think-tank says. This could be done by seeking and acting on patient feedback, hearing patient stories, reviewing and learning from complaints, taking time to listen to patients and their relatives, and acting on the results of staff surveys.

Nicola Hartley, director of leadership development at The King’s Fund, said: “It’s the responsibility of all NHS organisations and professionals to make care patient-centred – to put patients' needs above those of the organisation, team or profession. Our survey suggests that we have a long road to travel to achieve this.

“We know that most NHS staff are intrinsically motivated to help people who are at their most vulnerable. It is a failure of leadership if those staff consistently faces barriers to treating patients and their families well.

“Leaders throughout the NHS, especially at board level, need to ensure that patient-centred care is core to the organisational culture. These kinds of changes do not occur by good intention; they require time and commitment from ward to board to achieve sustainable change.”