NHS boss won’t quit despite ‘1,200 needless deaths’

Sir David Nicholson: Admitted 'The NHS lost it's focus'. Picture: PA
Sir David Nicholson: Admitted 'The NHS lost it's focus'. Picture: PA
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Under-fire NHS boss Sir David Nicholson has said he is “absolutely determined” to stay in his job despite admitting failures over the Stafford Hospital scandal.

Sir David, the chief executive of the National Health Service in England, admitted the service “lost its focus” and he conceded that he “was a part of that”. But he again rebuffed calls for him to resign, saying he wanted to lead the NHS south of the Border through coming reforms.

Campaigners said Sir David should be sacked following the publication of the Francis Report into serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust.

He was in charge of the regional health authority which was responsible for Mid Staffordshite for 10 months between 2005 and 2006 – the height of the failings in care at the trust. Giving evidence to the health select committee at Westminster, Sir David said: “During that period, across the NHS as a whole, patients were not the centre of the way the system operated.

“For a whole variety of reasons, not because people were bad but because there were a whole set of changes going on and a whole set of things we were being held accountable for from the centre, which created an environment where the 
leadership of the NHS lost its focus.

“I put my hands up to that and I was a part of that, but my learning from that was to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

But he told MPs the local health authority had “no idea” about the serious care failures – where patients were routinely neglected and as many as 1,200 may have died needlessly amid maltreatment and neglect.

Patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

“We had no idea,” he said. “The information was not bought to the strategic health authority, we did not see any of the information which would lead you to believe that there was all of this going on in Mid Staffordshire.”

Sir David added that he visited the hospital during the time when problems were emerging but was not alerted to any cases of neglect and poor care. He also said that the regional health authority was not alerted to high mortality rates at the trust.

During the hearing, committee member Valerie Vaz told him: “Please don’t feel that this is a trial.”

She then launched into a tough examination of his time as chief of the local health authority, telling him: “What struck me about your statement is it is very much like you are a process man and a procedure man. I can’t find anything about patients in there and what you are going to do on quality of care.”

Sir David rejected the description as “unfair”.