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Francis highlights commissioners’ role

13 February 2013

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The commissioners’ role in monitoring the quality of healthcare services has been reiterated by Robert Francis QC today, following his report late last week. 
Francis, who led the inquiry into the failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital, told the Health Select Committee that commissioners should “take responsibility”. 
“Primary care trusts seemed to believe that other people had responsibility [for monitoring quality of services] but I believe that has to be changed,” he said. 
He added: “It will need resources, and it will need support.” 
When asked by committee chair Stephen Dorrell whether constant changes made primary care trusts (PCTs) “virtually powerless”, Francis responded with an unequivocal: “Yes.” 
Commissioners were urged to be aware of patterns of concern in one of Francis’ 290 recommendations. 
“A GPs duty to a patient does not end on referral to hospital, but is a continuing relationship,” the report stated. 
The new system will only work if commissioners “undertake their own audits, inspections and investigations”, Francis claimed, as reported in The Commissioning Review last week. 
Commissioners should also take “control” by searching for alternative sources of provision, according the report.
Following the report, nine more trusts are newly under investigation for having high mortality rates. 
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director said: “The purpose of my investigation is to assure patients, public and Parliament that these hospitals understand why they have a high mortality and have all the support they need to improve. 
“This will be a thorough and rigorous process, involving patients, clinicians, regulators and local organisations.”
The hospitals, which have been “outliers” in hospital mortality statistics for two years are:
North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust
George Eliot Hospital Trust
Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals Foundation Trust
The Dudley Group Foundation Trust
Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust
Medway Foundation Trust
Burton Hospitals Foundation Trust
Sir Keogh is soon to announce the timescale and terms of reference for this investigation.