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The Francis Inquiry

The Francis Inquiry – one year on

It is exactly 12 months since the report of the full public inquiry into the failings at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust was published on 6th February 2013. The inquiry, led by Robert Francis QC, looked at the role of commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies and why serious problems at the trust were not identified and acted on sooner.

In all, 290 recommendations were made by the Francis inquiry which set out a clear blueprint for the creation of a care system which ensures that the safety, dignity and well-being of patients is paramount. The Patients Association made it very clear at the time that it was vital that the recommendations were implemented swiftly and comprehensively; indeed, we are the only organisation that has been consistent in our arguments that the recommendations made by the Francis Inquiry should be implemented in full.

In response to the Francis inquiry, the Government set about implementing a series of further reviews which covered three key areas of concern: patient safety, patient experience and regulation

Whilst we welcome the findings of the various reviews and reports, it is now time for action. It is becoming increasingly apparent that those who run the NHS are reluctant to take the radical steps demanded by the Francis inquiry. We all know what needs to happen: regulation of healthcare assistants, a reformed complaints system, improved training and a properly funded and structured regulatory system. It is time for the government and NHS England to deliver action. We have been saying for many years now that the need to listen to patients, involve them in their care, value staff and for trusts to work together rather than in isolation are all key elements to ensure that standards improve and unnecessary deaths are avoided.

There is still a lot to change. There is a culture in the NHS where processes precede patient care. For years we have tried to highlight concern about poor care despite often being seen as a nuisance for highlighting these issues. The behaviour and culture that permeated in Mid Staffordshire could well be found in many trusts in many parts of the country today.

Ultimately, we believe that patients who use health and care services have the right to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion by staff who have the skills and time to care for them. We must:

1. Put patients (and their carers) first in decisions about their care
2. Help staff to be competent and provide care with dignity and compassion
3. Keep patients and service users safe; encourage whistle blowing where
unsafe care is being practiced
4. Have easy and accessible mechanisms for ensuring patient feedback
through complaints – lessons to be learnt
5. Create open and transparent cultures which are free of blame

A copy of our full response to the first anniversary of the Francis Report can be found here.

Do patients really have a choice?
The British Medical Association (BMA) held an event this week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Patient Liaison Group. The event brought together past and present members of the group, along with BMA committee Chairs, representatives from external patient groups and senior BMA staff.
The meeting aimed to provide the BMA with informed and independent advice on the issue of patient choice in the NHS. Dr Mike Smith of the Patients Association was invited to speak at the event along with a representative from Healthwatch England.

Dr Smith highlighted some of the problems that patients have in making an informed choice about their care, and the barriers to obtaining the health care that they want. Patients today expect, and deserve, a variety of choices when it comes to accessing health care from the NHS, and the “Choose and Book” website was set up to enable patients to make this a reality. However, many patients find that there isn’t actually a great deal of choice available (and sometimes none). Furthermore, even when choices are available, patients are finding it difficult to make an informed decision.

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