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Sir David Nicholson apologises to people of Mid Staffordshire and pledges positive and swift response to public inquiry

“We must give patients much more clout”, says NHS chief

Sir David Nicholson has apologised to the people of Mid Staffordshire on behalf of the NHS, saying it had “let people down in the most devastating way”.

He made it clear that “apologies are not enough” and pledged to respond positively and swiftly to the recommendations of the public inquiry into events Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which will be published next week.

He said the next big challenge for the NHS was to radically strengthen the voice of patients, giving them “much more clout” than ever before.

Sir David, Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, was speaking at an event in London to National Voices, an umbrella body representing charities and patient groups. The event was discussing patients as leaders and Sir David spoke about the need for the NHS to put patients at the heart of everything it does.

Speaking after the event, Sir David said:

“Next week the NHS will have to face up to difficult truths about what happens when the health service goes badly wrong.

“When the first Francis report came out I read at length all the accounts of patients’ families and experiences. Anyone who read these harrowing accounts could not fail to be moved and it was a watershed moment for me in my understanding of the issues that happened at Mid Staffs. They are difficult reading for anyone who really believes in the NHS and are committed to doing great things for patients. I urged all leaders of the NHS to read these accounts and I will be encouraging them to do so again.

“As a human being, and as chief executive of the NHS, I want to apologise to the people, their families and carers for the truly dreadful experiences that they had to go through. I apologise to them on behalf of the NHS as a whole and for the fact that those patients, relatives and carers found themselves in the position where they not only had terrible things happen to them but the very organisation they looked to for support let them down in the most devastating of ways. But apologies are not enough and we need to be relentless in our efforts to put things right.”

Sir David’s speech highlighted four areas where the NHS planned to give patients a bigger say:

  • Putting patients in control of their own care – “We want services seven days a week to suit needs of patients.  National Voices have agreed to develop a narrative for integrated care from the perspective of the patient and service user.”
  • Operating in a more open and transparent way – “We want to publish data right across the system, from the general quality of GP practices and hospitals, through to information on individual consultants”.
  • Putting patients at the top table – “CCGs are required to appoint at least two lay members on their governing body.  Patients are represented on the NHS Commissioning Board through patient groups and other charities.  NHS Commissioning Board meetings are held in public and streamed online.”
  • Listening and acting when people tell us we get it wrong – “The friends-and-family test is one example but we need to go further.  We must embed people’s voices and experiences in the way the NHS works.  When things go wrong we need to be honest and open about it so we can put things right.”

Sir David added:

“A maturing NHS is making room for the voice of patients in a way it never has done before. There’s much we’ve done over the last few years to strengthen that position but there’s much more we need to do.”

“We need to ensure that Boards are focussed on what their patients think about their services.  We cannot find ourselves again where we force dedicated people such as those in Cure the NHS to take the steps they took simply to achieve the aim of being listened to on behalf of their relatives and loved ones.”

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6 comments

  1. K Mackay says:

    I also would like to know why Sir David is still in charge of the NHS given his lack of leadership. I do not have the confidence in him to solve the NHS problems which has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths including my father who was in Basildon & Thurrock. If Mid Staffordshire had been investigated in the first place and measures put in rather than being ignored as it has been ignored for years thousands of people may not have died. Too little too late.

  2. Peter Lilly says:

    I would be very grateful for an explanation as to why Sir David is still in charge of the NHS given his own failings (lack of leadership) in the biggest scandal to hit the NHS since its existence – the Mids Staffs hospital. Perhaps he can provide some justification as to why we should have continued confidence in him to lead the NHS. It seems important as it would appear over 1,000 people died unnecessarily on his watch. If I have misunderstood the Francis report then an explanation is even more important as the general public will have interpreted it in the same way as I have.

  3. Lesley Smith says:

    Isn’t it just incredible that when my Mother who died this time last year was taken ill I was actually ,and very guiltily ,pleased that she died the same day she went in to hospital.The thought of her having to endure the kind of treatment that some of the Staffordshire community (and others in the uk) have had to suffer at the hands of nursing staff turns my blood cold.My step father who is still alive reads all this and must dread what might happen to him. What a travesty,and what a terrible legacy for what was once considered to be the best healthcare system in the world.

  4. NHSComplaint says:

    I read this with the full knowledge that the NHS designed a complaints system with the sole purpose of undermining the complainant. They introduced PALS, staff it well and made the NHS Complaints manager inaccessible so that no complaint would be investigated and only a liason service which sends letters between the professional and the complainant. This model was to allow the professional to be divorced from the NHS to the extent they were allowed to investigate themselves. To implement such a system across the entire NHS required senior decision making, so for Sir David Nicholson to turn around and apologise as if this was an accident is unacceptable.

  5. Dr Suzanne Shale says:

    Can this really be the way in which this very important apology is to be made – a report on a speech made at a conference? I’m stunned. Please tell me this is just the trailer for the proper apology. If it is, this is how to get it right. The best discussion of the art and science of apology you are likely to read is in Nick Wright’s book “I was wrong – the meanings of apologies”. He argues that a “Categorical Apology” has eleven vital elements. This is how Nicholson’s apology as reported measures up: corroborated factual record (yes) acceptance of blame (not really) identification of harm (this apology omits that the harm to patients was confounded by the harm of denying that anything was wrong) identification of the moral principles underlying each harm (no) endorsing the moral principles underlying each harm (no) recognition of the victim as a moral interlocutor (halfway there) categorical regret (yes) PERFORMANCE OF THE APOLOGY (no, emphatically not in this form) reform and redress (getting there) Intentions for apologising (difficult to convey sincerity in these circumstances, but not bad) Emotions (we’re half way there with harrowing – but it would be nice to get a scent of shame or remorse for his own part). Marks – 5/10. Please try again. This matters to all of us who believe in the NHS.

  6. Mary E Hoult says:

    It is very hard for a community volunteer of long standing to read these words and detach leadership from them,in the drive for change patients/staff/and community have suffered.and we all must learn lessons.it seems to us that the 20/80 rule applied in the rush for agenda for change and the outcome was always going to be the one identified in this report.