16 Jul 2013

Condition critical: parties clash over damning NHS report

Conservative and Labour politicians exchange verbal blows as they blame each other for major failings in 11 hospital foundation trusts, as identified in a report by NHS England’s medical director.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons thousands more patients may have died at 14 hospitals than would normally be expected. He said 11 trusts are being placed in special measures.

The health secretary said external teams were being sent in to oversee the 11 hospitals because of “fundamental breaches of care”. All 14 “failing” hospitals are being issued with notices to improve.

Mr Hunt was commenting on a report, written by NHS England Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, which was commissioned by David Cameron in February after the Francis inquiry into high death rates in Mid-Staffs.

Sir Bruce examined 14 other NHS trusts with high death rates which have paid out a combined £234m in negligence settlements in the past three years.

The hospitals are: Basildon and Thurrock in Essex; United Lincolnshire; Blackpool; the Dudley Group, West Midlands; George Eliot, Warwickshire; Northern Lincolnshire and Goole; Tameside, Greater Manchester; Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire; Colchester, Essex; Medway, Kent; Burton, Staffordshire; North Cumbria; East Lancashire; and Buckinghamshire Healthcare.


The prime minister’s official spokesman has said that senior NHS managers could be suspended.

After the Francis report was published, the government said if a hospital was deemed to be failing, the board could be suspended or the trust put into administration.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman, one of Sir Bruce’s advisers, said that in some cases the high death rates stretched back to 2005.

He told the Daily Telegraph that he warned health officials over the course of a decade about the high rates, but was not listened to.

The Conservatives are likely to seize on the findings of the Keogh review to attack Labour’s handling of the health service.

‘Utterly false’

But former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham told BBC Breakfast that suggestions that he had ignored warnings about death rates when he was in government were “utterly false”.

He said: “It was the independent regulator using this data that uncovered the problems at Mid Staffordshire.

“On the back of the publication of mortality data in 2009 I ordered action at Basildon Hospital and also on the back of that I ordered an in-depth review of all hospitals in England.

“Now that led to warnings being put in place on five of the trusts being considered in the Keogh review and all of those trusts have got worse on this government’s watch.”

Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, told the BBC Today programme said that over the last 30 years, there had been an “obsession” with “the financial side of the hospitals and with targets”.


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