'Zero harm and first class care across the service must be aim'
POLITICIANS from across the political spectrum have welcomed the long-awaited report on the Stafford Hospital scandal.
Stafford's Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy said patients should be put 'at the heart' of the NHS, to ensure the disaster at Stafford was not repeated.
Mr Lefroy also paid tribute to campaigners such as Cure the NHS founder Julie Bailey, whose tireless work repeatedly highlighted the problems at Stafford.
He said: "At some time in our lives we all turn to the NHS to care for us and our loved ones. We rightly expect care and compassion in doing so.
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"In Stafford, patients were neglected and did not receive the care they deserved.
"We need to fix that fault and ensure that patients, loved ones and clinical staff are better able to speak out and challenge the quality of care.
"The inquiry and this report mark the opportunity to put patients at the heart of our NHS. Zero harm and first class care across the service must be our aim.
"In Stafford, I am determined that we have a hospital which delivers this. That is the least we can do to ensure that what patients and their loved ones will not have suffered in vain.
"At the same time, we need honesty, openness and responsibility.
"If a member of staff – in whatever position – is not up to the job, it is fair neither to them, nor to patients nor their colleagues, if they continue in it. The Royal Colleges and other bodies must work with the Government to ensure the highest standards of professionalism and conduct."
Stoke-on-Trent North MP Joan Walley called for the Stafford Hospital inquiry to have a lasting legacy.
She said: "I called for the public inquiry when this was happening at Stafford Hospital, and I now welcome its findings.
"The report makes 290 recommendations and I would like to see each followed up.
"But I think the really critical thing is that we have a culture of caring within the NHS, and not just a culture of achieving targets. We also need some local oversight that brings together all the different NHS bodies in Staffordshire. The problems at Stafford went undetected because agencies were working in silos."
One of Robert Francis's 290 recommendations called for greater co-ordination between local council scrutiny committees and local Healthwatch organisations, which will advise the new clinical commissioning groups from April.
Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins accepted that scrutiny committees had to take some of the blame for the failures, but insisted the authority was taking steps to address this issue. He said residents were now able to ask questions directly to senior NHS officials at the scrutiny committee meetings, with joint accountability sessions co-ordinating the work at county and district council level.
Mr Atkins added: "We will be introducing more training for members of the health scrutiny committee. I accept it can be difficult for lay people to challenge professionals, but the way I see it is, I may not know much about window cleaning, but I can tell when a window needs cleaning."