We must not repeat previous mistakes, says former Mid Staffs trust head
Current NHS pressures are recreating the circumstances that led to disastrous failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, according to the nurse brought in to turn the hospital around
‘Increasing demand, unremitting pressures, workforce shortages and challenging financial imperatives are all too familiar, and all were prevalent when I joined Mid Staffs,’ Sir Stephen Moss said.
He was asked to chair the trust following a highly critical report from the Healthcare Commission in 2009, which suggested hundreds of people may have died from poor care.
Further care scandals
Writing in Nursing Standard in a personal capacity, Sir Stephen, now a non-executive director and senior independent director at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and non-executive director at Health Education England, believes that there is a ‘real possibility’ of further care scandals.
His fears come after a winter of intense pressure on NHS services, with long waits in emergency departments and operations being cancelled.
'Some fantastic improvements have been made since Sir Robert Francis reported on Mid Staffs, but I genuinely fear that there is a real possibility of further care scandals,' he added.
'We must not allow our focus on patient safety and delivering high quality, compassionate care to be diverted.
'It is vital that trust boards recognise this and make sure they do not lose sight of what matters to our patients, their families and our staff. I will never forget, at Mid Staffs, the total loss of public confidence and the demotivated "war weary" staff. We owe it to those we serve to make sure it never happens again.'
Sir Stephen is concerned that Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are seen as ‘silver bullets’ for the problems in England. While the reorganisation plans being developed by local health and social care bosses around the country offer a real opportunity for improvement, they are fraught with risk if not done well, Sir Stephen warns.
There have been reports that STPs are being used to cut beds and change emergency and GP services.
‘STPs are our best chance of putting health and social care on a sounder footing for the future. But I am worried about how they will be implemented, and how front-line staff will be supported throughout the process,’ Sir Stephen wrote. ‘If the changes are not managed effectively and sensitively, the solution will become part of the problem.’
Sir Stephen’s concerns follow the warning last month by Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust inquiry, that the health service is only holding together because of ‘superhuman efforts’ of staff.
‘We’ve got a virtual storm of financial pressures: increased demand, difficulties finding staffing, and pressure on the service to continue delivering,' Sir Robert told BBC One's Andrew Marr show in Feburary.
'And some of that sounds quite familiar, as those were the conditions pertaining at the time of Mid Staffordshire.'