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Staffing and accountability key parts of NHS shake-up

Hunt’s response to Francis Report due later today

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A duty of candour and greater accountability are predicted to be key components of the government’s response due out later today to the Francis Report.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt looks set to focus on staffing levels - this may include the introduction of monthly mandatory reporting on the number of staff on hospital wards but is unlikely to include a fixed minimum nurse-patient ratio.

The Health Secretary may also unveil plans to introduce a “barring system” to prevent poor managers from getting new posts within the NHS.

The government gave its initial response to the report in March and has since announced the development of an Ofsted-style ratings system and the appointment of three chief inspectors.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will address MPs on the matter later today to set-out the government’s full response to the report.

The Francis Inquiry was published at the start of February to investigate failings and abuse that occurred at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009. The report revealed widespread cultural problems within the NHS and concluded that hundreds of people were failed by a system that: “ignored warning signs of poor care and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety”.

Robert Francis QC, chairman of the inquiry made 290 recommendations including the proposal that to “cause death or serious harm to a patient by non-compliance without reasonable excuse of the fundamental standards, should be a criminal offence”. The government this week announced plans to introduce measures that would mean doctors and nurses found guilty of “wilful neglect” of patients could face jail - the British Medical Association and Royal College of General Practitioners have warned this could create a climate of fear.

The Francis report also recommended “openness, transparency and candour throughout the system underpinned by statute” and called for improved support for ‘compassionate, caring and committed nursing’.

It is expected that Mr Hunt will announce that most of the 290 recommendations put forward in the report will be accepted.

In March, Mr Hunt stated: “The health and care system must change. We cannot merely tinker around the edges - we need a radical overhaul with high quality care and compassion at its heart.” In setting out his initial response, he then added: “this is just the start of a fundamental change to the system”.

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