Health inquiry chief to face MPs

Robert Francis QC last week called for a 'zero tolerance' approach to poor standards in the health system

Robert Francis QC last week called for a 'zero tolerance' approach to poor standards in the health system

First published in National News © by

The head of the inquiry which found "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of patients" at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is to appear before MPs.

Robert Francis QC, who chaired of the public inquiry, will give evidence to the Health Select Committee in Westminster. The Francis Report highlighted the "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of patients" at the trust between 2005 and 2009 and called for a "zero tolerance" approach to poor standards in the health system.

The QC - who carried out a previous independent inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital - said the NHS had failed to protect patients, regulatory agencies failed to communicate, and there was "too great a degree of tolerance of poor standards".

The trust failed to tackle an "insidious negative culture" including a tolerance of poor care standards, and had a culture of "self-promotion rather than critical analysis and openness", his report said.

Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the "truly dreadful" mistreatment and neglect at the trust. Meanwhile NHS chief Sir David Nicholson has resisted calls from the families of those who died that he resign.

Mr Francis' appearance comes on the same day Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to set out plans to cut "cumbersome bureaucracy" in the health service by a third. NHS staff claim red tape gets in the way of providing the care to patients, Mr Hunt is expected to tell the Reform conference on changes to the NHS.

On Monday health officials revealed 14 hospital trusts in total are to be investigated over their mortality rates. The NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) said nine trusts had been "outliers" on the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) for two years running.

Medical director Sir Bruce Keogh is to investigate North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Medway NHS Foundation Trust and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Last week Sir Bruce announced he would be investigating five trusts which were identified by the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) as having higher than expected death rates. Figures suggest there were 3,000 more deaths than expected at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The mortality ratios at the trusts were "persistently high" between July 2010 and June 2012, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The SHMI, which compares the number of patients who die following admission to hospital with the number who would be expected to die, suggests that 3,063 more people died than expected at the trusts over the two-year period.

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