Stafford hospital scandal: NHS staff responsible for 'terrible care of patients could face prosecution for wilful neglect or manslaughter'

 

NHS staff responsible for the “terrible” care of patients at Stafford Hospital could face prosecution for wilful neglect or manslaughter, the head of the inquiry into failings of care suggested today.

Robert Francis QC, who conducted the official inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, said people should be “held to account” where it was possible to do so.

However, he warned that some of the “terrible things” that happened at the hospital didn’t “necessarily fit easily into a criminal category”. 

Mr Francis said that while his inquiry did not blame individuals that did not mean that those who worked and managed health care in Staffordshire should not be held to account.

He said the terms of his inquiry were to examine actions - or inactions - of organisations rather than individuals against a “background of the most appalling” care provided to large numbers of patients at Stafford Hospital.

But he added: “I do not believe that this report exonerates people at all, I do urge those who have not done so to read the accounts given of the history in the various chapters about the organisations, where I set out in detail what individuals have done and what they have not done, what letters they got and their reaction to these letters.

“Others may disagree but I personally believe that is the useful contribution a public inquiry can make in this situation.”

His comments are likely to be seized upon by critics of Sir David Nicholson, head of the NHS Commissioning Board, who was in charge of the Strategic Health Authority overseeing Mid Staffordshire at the time of the scandal.

Some, including in private some cabinet ministers, believe Sir David should step down over his role. The organisation that he ran was criticised in the report.

But Mr Francis said effectively putting people on trial by making one of the inquiry terms of reference that of identifying individuals responsible would have resulted in a number of “unfortunate” results.

“You cannot try people without it being fair,” he told MPs on the House of Commons health select committee.

“I personally think that would have had a number of unfortunate results...the first would have been the duration and extent of the inquiry.

“Every single person involved would have instructed a lawyer, every single person would have to have been a core participant.

“I know some people have criticised the length of my inquiry but I would have been running this inquiry for years - the lessons would not have been learned but perhaps the most important point is that I don't think we would have found out as much as we did.”

Mr Francis said his job had been to find out from as many people as possible what had happened and to build up a picture of events at Stafford Hospital and then to draw lessons for the future.

“Clearly one of these lessons is that there is insufficient accountability in this system and it is for that reason that I make a number of recommendations in that regard,“ he said.

Mr Francis said he had witnessed a ”tsunami of anger“ directed towards the NHS over the absence of consideration of the impact of actions upon patients.

”I have not said that individuals should not be held to account, clearly they should be where possible,“ he told MPs.

The public inquiry report by Mr Francis called for a ”zero tolerance“ approach to poor standards of care in the health system. It said the NHS had failed to protect patients at the hospital, regulatory agencies failed to communicate and there was ”too great a degree of tolerance of poor standards.“

The trust failed to tackle an insidious negative culture” including a tolerance of poor care standards and had a culture of “self promotion” rather than critical analysis and openness, his report found.

The public inquiry was ordered after a separate report revealed that between 400 and 1,200 more people died than expected at Stafford Hospital over a four year period between 2005 and 2009.

Patients were left for hours sitting in their own faeces, food and drink was left out of reach and hygiene was so poor that relatives had to clean toilets themselves.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before