THE NHS has “lost focus” and any hospital – including in Scotland – could encounter the same problems as those in Mid-Staffordshire, where a lack of care led to up to 1,200 deaths, Scottish medical leaders warn today.
The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) says hospital staff now face so much pressure, including doctors being over ruled by their bosses who do not have any medical qualifications, that a repeat of the Mid-Staffordshire scandal is a real possibility.
It is so concerned about falling standards of patient care that it plans to set up a confidential hotline to encourage doctors to report colleagues they think are not doing their job properly.
RCPE president Dr Neil Dew-hurst said: “The Mid-Staffordshire inquiry report made harrowing and depressing reading for all with an interest in standards of care and presents a litany of failings at all levels.
“While patients should be reassured that there is much high quality care provided by the NHS, there is potential for the events to be repeated in any hospital in Scotland or the UK. We must not allow this to happen.”
“In recent years, the NHS has lost its focus and there is a need to re-commit to the central importance of high quality care.”
An independent inquiry into the English health board scandal by Robert Francis, QC, found the safety of sick and dying patients was “routinely neglected”.
Others were subjected to “inhumane treatment”, bullying and abuse. It found hospitals were so preoccupied with saving money they “lost sight of the fundamental responsibility to provide safe care”.
In an editorial for the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, published today, three senior officials at the organisation say the same problems could occur in any hospital under pressure.
The three – Dr Dewhurst and vice-presidents Dr Mike Jones and Dr John Wilson – say action is needed in the wake of the Francis Report and call for a “cultural change to avoid repetition”.
They want consultants to be available in hospitals around the clock and workforce planners to ensure enough funding is made available for this.
The medical leaders also tell of concern that doctors’ clinical advice regarding best treatment can be over-ruled by managers.
They call for patients to be given “a louder, more systematised voice” about their experience to ensure they are getting the care they need and expect.
They say: “Let us be under no illusion that the problems encountered in Mid-Staffordshire were localised. The contributing circumstances have the potential for this to occur in any hospital under pressure.
“Now is the time for the NHS to foster a culture in which the delivery of this care is placed above all else. Nothing less than this is required to give patients the care and respect which they need to receive and we need to deliver.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said “no greater wake-up call could be sounded for the SNP government”. He said NHS boards had focused on finding excuses for poor performance at the expense of patient care.
The Scottish Government last night said it was considering the Francis Inquiry’s recommendations to identify any lessons for the NHS in Scotland.
A spokesman said: “While there is no room for complacency, we are proud of the integrated, collaborative approach to healthcare in Scotland.”