Nuffield Trust response to Department of Health measures on NHS safety, transparency and openness

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Responding to today’s publication of staffing statistics, and the announcement that Sir Robert Francis QC will lead a report on openness in the NHS, Dr Judith Smith, Director of Policy at the Nuffield Trust said:

“It is vital that people in the NHS see concerns about patient care as something they can talk about and address in an open and honest manner. One of the most promising signs emerging from recent work we conducted on the impact of the Francis Inquiry was that hospitals are working hard to create a more open and supportive culture.

“What was less promising, however, were signs that some central bodies were not necessarily echoing this behaviour, with some hospitals reporting that they felt over-burdened by external regulation and performance management which was often focused on financial and other targets that were not directly concerned with patient safety.

The real question for hospitals considering increases in staffing is the issue of where additional funds will come from Dr Judith Smith, Director of Policy, Nuffield Trust

“So it’s good news that the Government has appointed Sir Robert Francis QC to head up a review into openness in the NHS.

“In addition, the Government’s moves to publish actual and planned staffing levels are to be welcomed. These recognise that safe and dignified care cannot be provided unless there are enough doctors and nurses, but without falling back on a one-size-fits-all model of blanket minimum staffing levels.

“But the real question for hospitals considering increases in staffing is the issue of where additional funds will come from. We know that the need to meet extremely ambitious financial targets has been the key issue for NHS trusts thinking of employing more staff.

It is very important that the health service continues to become more productive, but there will ultimately be a limit to how fast this can done while still improving the quality of care.”

Editors' notes

The Francis Report: one year on explored how acute hospital trusts were responding to the Francis Inquiry, one year on from the report into the failings in Mid Staffordshire hospitals. It was published by the Nuffield Trust in February 2014 and features a foreword by Sir Robert Francis QC. 

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