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Stafford Hospital inquiry 'waste of time'

24 February 10 15:35 GMT

The Stafford Hospital independent inquiry has been described as a waste of time and money and a whitewash by a man whose wife died there.

The report concluded that patients were routinely neglected at the hospital after management became preoccupied with cost-cutting and targets.

Jim Duff, whose wife Doreen died at the hospital in 2008, said: "It hasn't told us anything we didn't already know.

"So they've wasted all this money on a private, secret report that's taught us nothing. What we need is a public inquiry. We knew that the care was totally, utterly disgraceful."

Catalogue of failings

The report found that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, lost sight of its responsibility to provide safe care.

The inquiry was launched into events at Stafford Hospital after another report last March from the Healthcare Commission revealed a catalogue of failings at the trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital.

Regulators said last year at least 400 more people had died at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008 than would be expected, due to "appalling" care.

Mr Duff said: "My wife caught C. diff, which wasn't diagnosed. I had to tell the doctors she'd got it."

Responding to the fact the report said patients were "routinely neglected", Mr Duff said that happened to his wife.

He added: "[There were] a lot more patients that were even more vulnerable.

"At least she'd got me there to take care of her to help. Some were elderly on their own with nobody and were totally ignored."

'Culture of fear'

Inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC made 18 recommendations for both the trust and the government in his final report.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the inquiry's findings.

He said: "It is particularly worrying that a culture of fear exists in some hospitals and one which prevents doctors and other health professionals from speaking out when they have concerns.

"Many doctors fear victimisation if they speak out and the BMA wants to ensure that doctors know that they will be supported if they need to voice concerns on behalf of their patients."

The Unison union said although progress had been made, the hospital needed to recruit more staff.

Unison head of health Karen Jennings said: "The fact that staffing levels were so woefully inadequate led to patients paying the price. And our members tell us that staff numbers are still a problem."

The RCN said "systemic failures and a lack of leadership resulted in massive failures in patient care" at the trust.

Its chief executive and general secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said the report "should act as a siren throughout the NHS to show that focusing on process over patients can have tragic results".

He said: "Just as important as numbers is getting the skill mix right - having untrained staff performing advanced duties is an accident waiting to happen."

Monitor and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said in a joint statement they had "strong powers of intervention and would not hesitate to take urgent action to protect patients if they thought this necessary".

According to the statement, the trust has made "important progress", but the CQC "has also made it clear that the trust must address remaining concerns quickly".

Stafford Labour MP David Kidney said "a controlling culture" within the hospital trust kept "dark facts hidden".

The report makes for "a distressing read for anyone working in the NHS", according to NHS West Midlands.

Its chief executive, Ian Cumming, said ongoing improvements at the trust were being seen.

But he added: "We have been clear that the trust needs to make further improvements quickly on behalf of patients.

"The SHA has invested an extra £4.5million in the foundation trust, on top of funding to support recruitment and training, to make sure that it is driving forward further faster improvements for the patients and people of Stafford."

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