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Care Quality Commission’s Chair attacks NHS culture

The chairman of the Care Quality Commission, (CQC), David Prior, has said that the NHS in England has a culture that “doesn’t listen” and that the NHS could go bust without “serious change”. The head of the health watchdog called for more competition to drive up standards, adding that rifts between managers and clinicians were jeopardising patient safety and blocking improvements in care.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Prior said, “Parts of the NHS have developed a culture that doesn’t listen – or worse, that stigmatises and ostracises those who raise concerns or complaints.”

“Too often, it delights in the ritual humiliation of those deemed to fail, tolerates and institutionalises outdated working practices and old-fashioned hierarchies, and can almost encourage managers and clinicians to occupy opposing camps.”

He called for successful hospitals to take over failing hospitals and community services, and for better care outside hospitals, and for larger centres of excellence.
He also called for changes to the way the NHS is held to account – particularly an end to trusts being “blindsided” by waiting time targets “that miss the point, skew priorities and have unintended consequences”.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, agreed with Mr Prior, saying,

“There is a culture in the NHS where process comes before humans. For years we’ve tried to highlight concern about poor care. We’re often seen as a nuisance for highlighting these issues. The behaviour and culture that was allowed to grow in Mid Staffordshire is no different from that in many trusts in many parts of the country today.”

The Department of Health said it was “focusing on poor care like never before” and was turning around 14 hospitals that are in special measures. A spokesman said, “We are clear that targets must never come before clinical need – and based on clinical advice, we have scrapped a number of them.”

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