“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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