The government’s response to the Francis report, although focused on secondary care, has “clear ramifications” for the whole NHS, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
According Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the NHS will now put “compassion at its heart” through more openness, greater accountability and a “relentless” focus on safety.
In the government’s detailed response to Robert Francis QC’s report on the failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospitals, hospital safe staffing levels were laid out.
Trusts will have to report quarterly on complaints data and lessons learned.
Experts will be asked to advise the government on how to improve reporting of safety incidents, including whether the statutory duty of candour on organisations should cover incidents of death and severe harm, or death, severe and moderate
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We recognise that while these recommendations focus on secondary care, there are clear ramifications for the entire NHS to ensure that we never end up in a situation where the lives of patients and their families are jeopardised by the failures of those in trusted and responsible positions.
“That’s why we believe more needs to be done to protect whistleblowers and ensure a ban is effectively enforced on ‘gagging clauses’ in NHS contracts.”
Dr Baker has urged the government to pursue a discussion with medical defence organisations, trade unions and Royal Colleges to explore this issue and put a clear plan of action in place.
‘Note of caution’
She said: “GPs have an important role to play in ensuring that their patients’ concerns about standards of care are dealt with swiftly and effectively. However, the capacity of GPs to take time to listen to their patients and act as advocates on their behalf is being compromised by the increasing pressure that general practice is under, with burgeoning workloads and steadily diminishing resources.”
And Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers echoed Dr Baker’s concerns, offering a “note of caution”.
He said: “We must also ensure that the future financial challenge we face does not conspire against implementing any of the Francis recommendations either.
“Getting care right all the time is what we all strive for; delivering this within a culture of compassion and diligence is what we must all seek to achieve. It’s an enormous ask.
“Improvement is not down to just one part of the NHS; commissioners, employers, professional bodies, regulators, national bodies and the Department of Health must work together with patients to share information and intelligence in a timely and responsive way that allows our extremely complex system to deliver candour, openness and transparency.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Today’s measures are a blueprint for restoring trust in the NHS, reinforcing professional pride in NHS frontline staff and above all giving confidence to patients. I want every patient in every hospital to have confidence that they will be given the best and safest care and the way to do that is to be completely open and transparent.”