The families of patients who died after receiving substandard care at Stafford Hospital have demanded that senior managers – including the current head of the NHS – be held responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.
Campaigners welcomed the findings of Robert Francis QC’s inquiry but called for the report’s recommendations of criminal accountability to be implemented retrospectively.
Deb Hazeldine, 43, whose mother, Ellen Linstead, died in 2006 after contracting a superbug at the hospital, said: “My mum died horrifically and hundreds of other people as well – we should have accountability for everybody who has been failed.”
Families called for the resignation of Sir David Nicholson, NHS chief executive, who was head of Shropshire and Staffordshire Strategic Health Authority which was responsible for Mid Staffs NHS Trust at the time of the scandal. Some also demanded the head of Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, after the report’s damning verdict on nursing standards.
“We don’t want a bully at the top of this organisation, we want a leader who will inspire and guide the staff on the front line,” said Julie Bailey, head of the pressure group Cure the NHS.
“Sir David Nicholson needs to resign today. Peter Carter needs to resign today: he has failed the front line.”
She added: “Everything in this report is what we need; this will give patients power. But it needs a leader to take that forward, and David Nicholson is not that leader.”
A spokesman for David Cameron said that Sir David, who featured heavily in the report, enjoyed the Prime Minister’s full support.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said the culture across the entire NHS had to change. He backed the idea that the Care Quality Commission could take on an enforcement role.
“The point about criminal prosecution, which I think most people feel, is that perhaps more than a thousand people died because of poor care. No one has been brought to book and that feels wrong,” he told Sky News.
Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, promised a relentless drive to repair damage to public confidence in the health service on what he described as a “sad and shameful day for the NHS”.
“We owe it to every patient, family member and carer to [make sure] these sorts of tragedies do not happen again. It is up to all of us in the NHS to take responsibility for putting things right.
“We cannot externalise responsibility for standards of care to government, politicians or regulators or anybody else,” he said. Emma Jones, from the law firm Leigh Day, who claims to represent 120 people and their families who suffered at Stafford Hospital, said politicians and NHS management must make changes to ensure patients are put first.
“The measures laid out by Robert Francis of zero tolerance, closing hospitals where there are poor standards of care, and a greater focus on compassion in nursing are hopefully measures which the Government will now implement before anything like this can happen again.
“It must take place quickly to prevent the abuse, which we as lawyers are still witnessing,” she said.
Sir David Nicholson
Former chief executive of West Midlands Strategic Health Authority and the Shropshire and Staffordshire Strategic Health Authority. He was responsible for supervising Mid Staffs NHS Trust from 2005 to 2006. Yesterday he repeated his apology for the poor care experienced by patients, adding: “But apologies are not enough – we need action, we need to make things happen.”
Under fire: the health chiefs
Toni Brisby Former chairman of Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.
Salary: £40,000 a year for three and a half days a week.
Yesterday’s report said: “Her failure to bring the Barry report to the board’s attention or to pursue with Mr Yeates what he was doing are further examples of what I regard to be a dangerous abrogation of directors’ fundamental duty to protect the safety of those that come to the Trust.” Left her position in 2009.
Cynthia Bower Former chief executive of West Midlands Strategic Health Authority.
The report concluded that Ms Bower’s priorities were directed at finance and restructuring rather than care. “The protection of patients does not figure expressly at all in her priorities, although she would doubtless argue that such a concept underlay all of them,” it found.
Martin Yeates Former chief executive of Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.
The report said he failed to appreciate the seriousness of the Trust’s problems and the significance of the mortality figures. “He was that most dangerous of leaders: one who was persuasive but ineffective,” it said. Received £400,000 pay-off and £1m pension pot.