Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 00:43 UK

Doctors 'must root out bad care'

Doctors should speak out more, the head of the new health regulator says

NHS staff - and in particular doctors - must do more to tackle bad care, the head of the new health regulator says.

Care Quality Commission chairman Barbara Young said there was a culture of silence among health staff, as shown by the Stafford Hospital scandal.

The hospital was criticised in an official report last month for its appalling standards of care.

But doctors' leaders warned medics were often bullied and harassed into accepting the status quo.

Ms Young said that, as head of the super regulator which was set up at the beginning of April to cover both health and social care, she was determined to make quality "the priority".

I think we should be less tolerant of mediocrity and failure
Mark Britnell, of the Department of Health

But she added: "The regulator cannot do it alone.

"We need to create a culture where doctors are obliged to challenge each other. It is not happening everywhere at the moment. There is a silence among professionals."

She said nurses could also play an essential role.

"They are the glue in the system that. They are there 24/7."

Ms Young, who was speaking at a conference hosted by the King's Fund health think tank, also said other front-line staff such as social workers could have an impact, but stressed doctors and senior nurses were probably in the strongest position because of the clout they had.


Mark Britnell, who as the NHS director of commissioning is one of the most senior officials in the Department of Health, said: "Quality is the be-all and end-all, but sometimes we do let the professionals off by blaming the organisation.

"I think we should be less tolerant of mediocrity and failure. We should expect more from our professionals who are well paid and well educated."

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said he agreed professionals had a "vital role" to play.

"I, like others, am still asking about what happened in Mid Staffordshire."

But he added staff could be "beaten down by the system".

"There can sometimes be a culture of threats and bullying that stops whistle-blowing".

Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, said: "If we had a few more whistle-blowers in the NHS we might avoid scandals like that at Mid-Staffordshire hospital where staff kept quiet as the body count rose."

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