A year has passed since the publication by Robert Francis QC of his report of the Public Inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (commonly known as the Francis Report) and a new report out today attempts to evaluate the extent to which acute hospital trusts in England have sought to embrace and act upon the main themes and recommendations from that Inquiry.
The Nuffield Trust research explores and examines responses from 53 acute hospital trusts to an electronic survey as well as in depth interviews with mainly senior staff from five case study hospitals to determine whether the much needed cultural shift towards placing quality of care at the heart of the NHS has in fact gathered momentum.
The Francis Report made a series of recommendations the thrust of which focused on the need to improve care being delivered to patients, and to encourage a more open, transparent and candid culture within the NHS as a whole.
The new report’s findings are heartening to the extent that many of the senior hospital staff indicated that they were taking decisive action to prioritise patient safety and quality. Clearly efforts are being made to recruit more nursing staff, in particular, as well as to improve the approach taken to the handling of patient complaints.
Sadly however the tension between prioritising “quality of care” over “financial performance” remains apparent with some Trusts indicating that although they are trying to get their houses in order they are still faced with increasing pressures from the wider national bodies such as commissioners and regulators to enforce sometimes unrealistic targets and goals.
It would seem therefore that much more work is needed and that the momentum for change must continue in order for members of the public to feel confident that they and their loved ones will be cared for appropriately within the NHS, that appropriate standards of care will be provided, and when things do go wrong that their complaints will be listened to, acted upon, and mistakes learned from.