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State of NHS 'reminiscent of Mid Staffs'

Sir Robert Francis says NHS only working due to 'superhuman' efforts of staff

Mark Gould

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the watershed inquiry into poor care and inadequate staffing at hospitals in Mid Staffordshire, said conditions in the NHS today “sound familiar” to those that existed during the height of the scandal.

Sir Robert, whose 2013 report uncovered poor care in Mid Staffordshire, said health services were struggling with the twin pressures of rising demand and limited resources.

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Sir Robert, now a non-executive director at the Care Quality Commission, said the pressures are "pretty bad". "We’ve got a virtual storm of financial pressures, increased demand, difficulties finding staffing, and pressure on the service to continue delivering. And some of that sounds quite familiar – as it was, those were the conditions pertaining at the time of Mid Staffordshire," he said.

“Things have changed since then, so the very fact that we’re talking about this today the way that we are, the very fact that the secretary of state says things are unacceptable, shows that there’s a greater level of transparency.

“So people are talking about the problems in a way that they weren’t before. But the system is running extremely hot at the moment and it’s only working at all because of the almost superhuman efforts of the staff of the NHS, and it can’t carry on like that indefinitely without something badly going, or risking going badly wrong.”

Sir Robert said there were now better safeguards in place and problems should be spotted before it reached the proportions of the Mid Staffs scandal between 2005-09, during which time as many as 1,200 patients may have died after they were “routinely neglected”.

He concluded by saying that more funding would be a “sticking plaster” and there needed to be a change in the way the service is delivered, as well as addressing the adult social care crisis.

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