Grenfell Tower tragedy echoes public safety issues of Mid Staffs

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Grenfell Tower tragedy echoes public safety issues of Mid Staffs

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The London tower block fire has parallels with the Mid Staffs hospital scandal, with responsibility for public safety at the heart of both, writes editor Graham Scott

The Grenfell Tower fire and associated loss of life has shocked the nation, and prompted a public inquiry that will make recommendations on how to prevent a repeat. Let’s hope it will prove more effective in this respect than similar inquiries covering scandals in healthcare.

To cite one example, there are parallels between the fire and the dysfunctional approach to delivering care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust a decade ago. Just as the housing needs of poor and disadvantaged people of west London were ignored for years, so were the care needs of older inpatients at Stafford Hospital, where hundreds died unnecessarily.

Responsibility

The inquiry into Grenfell Tower will examine who was responsible for its recent refurbishment, which most experts agree was among the main reasons for the building burning so quickly.

The answer will be complex, with national and local government, and a plethora of sub-contractors and private companies, all facing questions.

The Francis report into Mid Staffs found that unsafe staffing levels were the principal cause of the unnecessary deaths, and that ministers, managers and regulators all failed in their duty.

More than four years after the report was published, little progress has been made – it is still the case that no one in a position of authority is ultimately responsible for ensuring safe staffing levels in our health service.

The victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, the patients in our NHS, and everyone who relies on our public services deserve better.