Jeremy Hunt attacks 'defensive' NHS staff culture as junior doctors walk out on strike

The Health Secretary has announced a slew of new patient safety measures

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The Health Secretary has hit out at the “defensive” culture of NHS staff – as junior doctors walk out on strike over the imposition of a new contract.

Citing previously publicised lapses in hospital care, Jeremy Hunt said the NHS as a whole needed to better learn from past mistakes.

“I have met too many patients and families who have faced a closed and defensive culture when they’ve tried to find out the truth about things that go wrong,” Mr Hunt wrote in a comment article for the Independent.

He argued that the NHS needed to develop “culture where we really are better at learning from mistakes”.

The Health Secretary said Ofsted-style inspections for NHS organisations, which he introduced, and publicly available ratings of hospitals would go some way to remedying the situation.

At a conference on patient safety in London today the Health Secretary announced that health trusts in England would be ranked by their ability to learn from their mistakes.

Legal protections for people giving information following a hospital mistake, a new independent Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch and extra reviews of all deaths are among other changes to be brought forward.

The timing of Mr Hunt’s intervention and emphasis of failings of medics may grate with junior doctors in particular – who have criticised the Health Secretary’s approach to their current ongoing staffing dispute.

The minister launched an inquiry into the morale of junior doctors last month, on the same day he announced he would be imposing a new contract on the medics.

Mr Hunt says the new contract will help reduce the death rate at weekends.

An analysis by the Health Foundation published at the start of this month blamed government policy, especially around staffing and the use of agency workers, for rising hospital deficits.

Junior doctors walked out at 8.00am on Wednesday and will stay on strike for 48 hours. Emergency care has still been left in place.

A poll by Ipsos MORI found that support for the strike was still strong – at 65 per cent, with 17 against the stoppage, down 22 per cent from the last time.

28 per cent of respondents blame both junior doctors and Mr Hunt for the dispute, while 57 per cent blame Mr Hunt.