UNISON says the Francis Report offers lessons for for all

The findings from the Francis Report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust provide lessons not only for the hospital, but for the Government and all NHS Trusts, said UNISON, the UK’s largest health union.

Critically, the report highlights the basic necessity for safe staffing levels and for wards to have the right skills mix to deliver high quality, compassionate and dignified patient care.

It must be recognised that day in day out the NHS and its staff deliver excellent care in hospitals across the country. But we support the need for rigorous inspection as a vital part of maintaining high standards and highlighting failures – and we welcome the Inquiry’s recognition that it must be carried out by people with the relevant experience of current practice. This means the CQC must be adequately equipped to enable it to carry out this role.

We are pleased that the Inquiry recognised the consequences of financial pressures bearing down on the hospital. Mid-Staffordshire’s hospital management were clearly focusing their efforts on targets and bringing down its financial deficit to win Foundation Trust Status, instead of on patients and the tragic consequences are detailed in this Inquiry report.

Robert Francis QC clearly ruled out looking for scapegoats or having reorganisation to cure the problem and strongly recommended that a real change in culture is needed. UNISON supports this but is warning that the Government’s massive NHS reorganisation, the 7,000 cut in nursing numbers and the demand for £20bn in so called “efficiency” savings, means that the lessons of the Inquiry may be lost.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said:

“We owe it to the patients who died and to their relatives to make sure that the lessons of this and previous Inquiries are hammered home, not only in hospital corridors but in the corridors of Whitehall.

“UNISON has been campaigning for many years on the importance of having the right number of staff with the right mix of skills on hospital wards. And sisters should be on the wards and not dealing with administration.

“Patients clearly suffered as a result of this not happening. UNISON and healthcare assistants have long called for decent training and registration to ensure quality care and patient safety. We welcome the report’s recommendation for registration of healthcare assistants, and this must come with a clear commitment to invest in their training and ensure they are supported to deliver safe, compassionate and dignified patient care.

“The Government must implement the recommendations speedily and in full. They are in the process of recreating across the whole of the NHS, the dangerous financial pressures that surrounded Mid Staffs. Staff numbers are being cut – 7,000 nurses have already gone – budgets have been slashed, despite greater patient need and despite this Government’s demand for £20bn in so called efficiency savings.”

UNISON supports the Inquiry’s call for a change in culture across the NHS to help rebuild patient confidence. A culture that would promote more candour and openness, partnership working with health trade unions and put in place structures to allow staff to raise concerns and be listened to. Staff should be able to blow the whistle without fear of reprisals if their concerns are not dealt with swiftly and adequately.